In memory of her

Christ Church Cathedral Grafton
Lent 5 (C)
7 April 2019

[ video ]

anointing-his-feet-2

A woman with a jar of expensive ointment …

The episode in today’s Gospel is one of my favourite stories.

It must have been a favourite story 2,000 years ago as well, because it shows up in all 4 Gospels.

That does not happen very often.

Lots of our favourite Jesus stories only occur in a single Gospel, while some occur in two or three. But it is quite rare for a story to have been included in all 4 of the Gospels.

For a list of Gospel episodes ranked by the date of the first document to mention them and then grouped according to the number of independent witness, see the Crossan inventory on the Jesus Database web site.

Now to be fair—and perhaps as we would expect—the story differs a bit depending on who is telling the tale:

Where and when: In Mark and Matthew the event happens at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper a few days before the arrest of Jesus. In Luke the event happens at the house of Simon the Pharisee in the Galilee, 100km north of Jerusalem and many months earlier. In John the event is again at Bethany in the last few days before Easter, but this time it is in the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary,

What happens: In Mark and Matthew an anonymous woman comes into the house with a jar of very expensive ointment (nard, according to Mark). She pours the oil over the head of Jesus, perhaps as a prophetic sign that he is the anointed one, the messiah. In Luke the anonymous woman is a “sinner” (sex worker perhaps?) who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes the dry with her hair, and then anoints his feet with the ointment while kissing them continuously. In John’s version of the story, they are hosting a party to celebrate Lazarus having been brought back to life by Jesus after being dead and buried for 4 days. What a party that would have been! Now the woman with the ointment is Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and she anoints his feet with the ointment, then dries them with her hair.

The onlookers: The disciples in Mark and Matthew object at the waste of money involved in such an action. In Luke the Pharisees thinks to himself that if Jesus were really a prophet he would realise “what sort of woman this is” and not allow her to touch him like that. In John it is Judas who objects to the waste of money.

The response of Jesus: In Mark and Matthew, Jesus rebukes the disciples while commending the woman and giving her a blessing: “She has done something beautiful for me. Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed what she has done will be told in memory of her.” In Luke Jesus responds by saying that the extreme love being shown by the woman is because she has been blessed so much, and then he assures her that her sins have been forgiven. In John, Jesus accepts the action of Mary as a prophetic sign of his own burial and reminds his listeners that they will always have the poor to help, if they really care so much about them!

 

What do we make of a story like that, and especially so close to Holy Week?

 

The story in John is set “six days before the Passover” and the day before Palm Sunday.

Jesus is about to die, but he is having a family party with a guy who was dead before Jesus himself raised the man back to life just a few days earlier (in John chapter 11).

This is a story that drips with symbolism, and not just with massage oil.

How do we respond when God is up to something in our lives?

One option is to revert to the rules. Be sensible. Watch the spending. Avoid extravagance. Act out of fear. Be afraid. Try to protect yourself.

No good news in that kind of response.

Another option is to respond with open-hearted generosity, and to throw love around as if there is never going to be any shortage of hope. Cross the boundaries. Spend the savings. Show your feelings. Live in the moment.

In each version of this story, the woman with the ointment has caught a glimpse of God’s generosity in Jesus and she makes a whole-hearted response. She does not care what the powerful men sitting around the table think about her.

She wants to say YES to God … and express her thanks for the blessings in her life.

In the oldest version of this story, the one found in Mark and Matthew, Jesus makes a remarkable comment on her action:

Everywhere that the Gospel is proclaimed what she has done will be told in remembrance of her … in remembrance of her.

Those are words that evoke what Jesus said at the Last Supper a few nights later: Do this in remembrance of me … drink this cup in remembrance of me”.

Careful observance of the rules might be a sensible thing to do, but extravagant acts of random kindness and generosity are at the very heart of our faith as disciples of Jesus.

That is what we are called to do, and that is the mindset into which we baptise Lachlan this morning …

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Grafton Cathedral, Sermons | Leave a comment

Compassionate Grafton

candles-heart.jpgThese past few days the people of Grafton and the wider Clarence Valley have reeled in shock as we heard about the massacre in two Christchurch mosques and then learned that the assailant was one of our own, a young man who grew up in Grafton.

Over the weekend I was interviewed by numerous national and international media, and one of the most frequent questions concerned our contacts with the local Muslim community as we prepared for the prayer vigil that was held in Grafton Cathedral last night.

When I explained that it was proving very hard to make contact with the local Muslim community, as they meet in secret and do not advertise any community contact persons, the immediate question was: Why?

Why are they afraid of us?

They are afraid of us because of the spread of an insidious virus in the Australian body politic, evidenced in the rise of right-wing parties such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.

This ‘virus’ is not limited to the far right, but also infects major political parties who find that fear fuels electoral support. Even parties which are traditionally left-wing creep to the right to minimise the electoral damage.

In the nether regions of Australian political life we find overtly white-supremacist groups and even members of parliament blaming Muslim immigration for the rise of Islamophobia and suggesting that the massacre in Christchurch was the result immigration policies that do not privilege white people.

The dog whistles echo around the media, and especially at a time when we have both state and federal elections.

It seems that my comments on a local radio station yesterday have upset a local candidate for the Shooters Party, Fishers and Farmers.

It is controversial to name the elephant in the room, namely the rise of populist political movements with policies that oppose immigration, call for the protection of our ‘western culture’ and seek to reduce or eliminate controls on gun ownership.

Read their policy documents. I have. [See australia.isidewith.com for a helpful collation of the data]

For the record, the context of my comments was the sad fact that our small Muslim community in Grafton (and indeed throughout the North Coast) meets secretly for their prayers and had proved impossible to contact as we planned the community prayer vigil at Grafton Cathedral.

Now why would they be afraid of us? Could it be the rise of populist political movements and the infection of racist atttiudes within so-called mainstream parties?

More importantly, in my view, how do we make Grafton a compassionate city where everyone feels safe and welcome, including our Muslim neighbours?

This is not party politics, it is compassion as taught by Jesus. “Love your neighbour as yourself …”

My prayer is that we come together as the generous communty that we are and use a project such as the Compassionate Communities program to demonstrate our true character to the world, but especially to our Muslim neighbours.

Posted in Reflections | 5 Comments

The four temptations of Jesus

First Sunday of Lent
Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
10 March 2019

[ video ]

The tradition of Jesus spending some time alone in the wilderness being “tested” (tempted) by Satan is found in three of the four Gospels, but is unknown to the Gospel of John.  It is a well-known tale that is deeply embedded in our souls.

In the so-called “Q Gospel”—the material preserved only by Matthew and Luke—this meme is developed into a story with three episodes.

Many stories in the western cultural canon have three episodes. It is how we like to tell stories, or even construct sermons.

“Forty days” is itself a biblical meme that occurs repeatedly in the Scriptures. It indicates an extended period of time during which major developments may occur.

For the anonymous Christian storyteller who shaped this story, this is the time when Jesus undergoes the challenges that any ancient hero was expected to survive in order to demonstrate their character and their skill.

This story is not a memory of a historical moment, but a meditation on the deeper truth that Jesus constantly had to choose faithfulness to God’s call on his life, rather than be seduced by second-best; an acceptable action in itself but not what God required of him.

That is a challenge we all face every day.

 

Turn these stones into bread

The first temptation …

And what can be wrong about a hungry person turning a few desert stones into warm bread rolls?

Nothing in itself, but context is everything.

The reply Jesus makes to the Satan figure in this story points to a spiritual crisis from which we mostly avert our eyes: “One does not live by bread alone.”

The “daily bread” for which Jesus teaches us to pray is not at stake here, but rather our insatiable appetite to acquire and consume.

We want … morefasterbetterimpressiveconvenience

And we want it now.

But in our heart of hearts we know that we are not defined by the baubles for which we compete.

We do not live by “bread” alone …

 

Look at what could be yours

The second temptation …

Come with me to an imaginary mountain from which one can survey the entire world, stretching out in all its immense flatness before us. As far as the eye can see, and then some …

Can you see that, Jesus?

Let’s cut a deal.

I can make you successful, and powerful. One of a kind. All you need to do is play by my rules.

Power is seductive, but Jesus would never take that route.

He chooses the path that leads to a cross in the garbage pit outside the walls of Jerusalem, rather than the highway that leads to power.

We are not called to be powerful, or successful.

It is enough to be faithful.

 

At the temple’s edge

Temptation three …

Now things are getting a little weird.

Let’s see what you are made of Jesus; and whether God really cares about you at all.

Come over here to the very edge of the temple in Jerusalem and throw yourself from the highest point. You will be fine, eh? After all, you are special. God will look after you.

Jesus would be offered that wrong choice another time: when hanging on the cross. The clergy from the temple say to one another: “Let’s wait and see if God will rescue him, since he claims to be God’s son.”

None of us would ever fall for that one, right?

We would never think that God exists to keep us safe from our own stupid choices or the hostile actions of other people?

We would never treat the planet like it exists for our sake, rather than the other way around?

We would never take advantage of other people for our own short term satisfaction?

Selfishness may be the worst temptation of them all.

 

 

Until next time …

“When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)

Spiritual victories are never complete.

There is always next time.

Jesus was not given a green pass after his successful completion of the inaugural testing regime.

There would be other opportunities to fail.

Other moments of vulnerability.

There always are.

The authentic life is a commitment to persistent and recurring faithfulness, not an easy jog to the finish line after some early successes.

We are in this for the long haul.

So is the dark one.

But so is God.

 

The home town crowd

They know us better than anyone else. Probably better than we know ourselves. If we are truly blessed, they love us despite knowing us so well.

They are the home town crowd, or simply our family and friends.

Fresh from his spiritual challenges in the wilderness, Jesus heads home to Nazareth and goes to the synagogue for worship on Shabbat.

It does not go well.

The home crowd is a tough gig.  Always has been.

Jesus reflects somewhat ruefully on a dynamic known across the centuries:

“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.”

That is one of the rare sayings of Jesus which is is found in all four Gospels.

Another temptation perhaps?

Living with criticism from those we love?

 

We have two choices

The modern Jewish philosopher and social critic, Noam Chomsky, has the last word this week:

We have two choices. We can be pessimistic, give up, and help ensure that the worst will happen. Or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist, and maybe help make the world a better place. Not much of a choice.

 

 

Posted in Grafton Cathedral, Sermons | Leave a comment

Morsels 2019 February

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these version of the content are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

Thr – 190228
Title
Action worthy of God’s children
Body
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35–36 NRSV)
Wed – 190227
Title
Go one better
Body
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” (Luke 6:32–34 NRSV)
Tue – 190226
Title
The golden rule
Body
A core spiritual principle found in almost every great religion: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NRSV)
Mon – 190225
Title
Turn the other cheek
Body
More from Jesus in Luke 6 this week: “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.” (Luke 6:29–30 NRSV)
SUN – 190224
Title
Love your enemies
Body
The opening words of today’s Gospel reading: “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27–28 NRSV)
Sat – 190223
Title
Inasmuch …
Body
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:34–40 KJV)
Fri – 19022
Title
The Christ hymn
Body
An ancient song from the first generation of Jesus’ followers is quoted by Paul in his letter to the Philippians Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who … …though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5–11 NRSV)
Thr – 190221
Title
X marks the spot
Body
Well, not actually an “x” but a cross: † On Good Friday we see where God’s priorities subvert and transform the twisted logic of human culture. The cross of Jesus is not about punishing sins, it is about reclaiming sinners and their compromised world. The cross of Jesus is not about soothing God’s feelings after centuries of human evil, it about a love that never says “No” even when humans act so badly. The cross of Jesus is not about the honour and prestige of God, it is about our ultimate worth to God, how much we matter—individually and collectively—to the Sacred Lover at the very heart of the universe. X marks the spot.
Wed – 1902020
Title
The song of Mary
Body
The victory song that Luke puts on the lips of Mary in his carefully crafted account of the conception and birth of Jesus captures the essence of the Holy Rebel from Nazareth: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:46–53 NRSV) Christians who really believe these words change the world …
Tue – 190219
Title
Turning (over) the tables
Body
One of the classic scenes from Holy Week is Jesus causing quite a scene in the Temple at Jerusalem as he overturns the tables of the money changers and makes a whip to chase out the stall holders from the farmer’s market held in the great courtyard every day. For Mathew, Mark and Luke this is the critical moment when Jesus takes it right up to the religious authorities of the Jewish temple state in Jerusalem. It comes near the end of the story and is the spark that leads to his arrest. Interestingly, for John this episode comes at the start of the Jesus story and sets the tone for all that will follow. The God we encounter in Jesus is a god who overturns privileges and power. How odd that Christians have loved associating with the rich and powerful so much during the past 2,000 years.
Mon – 190218
Title
Captain’s pick
Body
In recent Australian politics we have experienced the famous “captain’s pick” on more than one occasion. God makes captain’s picks as well, but she does it differently. God chooses the poor, the widows, the orphans, the overlooked younger sibling, the refugees and the asylum seekers, the collaborators (“tax collectors”) and the women with reputations (“the sinners”). Phew! That gives me a chance …
SUN – 190217
Title
The God who subverts
Body
We should have expected this from a god who gets himself born to an unwed mother. “Blessed are you who are poor … woe to you who are rich … Blessed are you who are hungry now … woe to you who are full now …” What is this bleeding-heart left-wing nonsense they are reading in churches all over the world today? Oh? It is Jesus? Really? I do not like him saying things like that. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Read my lips, says Jesus.
Sat – 190216
Title
The God who calls: Paul of Tarsus
Body
Paul describes his own sense of calling as an act of grace towards someone who was completely unworthy of being chosen by God … For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe. (1Corinthians 15:3–11 NRSV)
Fri – 190215
Title
The God who calls: Jonah
Body
Sometimes people try to run and hide when they sense God calling them. You may know someone like that? Jonah is the most famous example of such futile resistance … Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.” Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, O LORD, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. But the LORD provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then the LORD spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land. The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1–4, 11–17; 2:10–3:3 NRSV)
Thr – 190114
Title
The God who calls: Fishermen on Galilee Lake
Body
Peter and his work mates were just going about their ordinary business, albeit not very successfully that day. Then Jesus turned up and everything changed … Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:1–11 NRSV)
Wed – 190113
Title
The God who calls: Isaiah
Body
Isaiah was a high-ranking official in the royal court at Jerusalem and used to attending the Temple for official events, then one day his life is turned upside down … In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:1–8 NRSV)
Tue – 190212
Title
The God who calls: Elijah
Body
In fear of his life, Elijah has fled to Mt Horeb (another name for Mt Sinai), where Moses had encountered God in the burning bush … At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”” (1Kings 19:9–13 NRSV)
Mon – 190111
Title
The God who calls: Samuel
Body
A very different but still classic episode is found in the ancient traditions about Samuel the prophet as a young boy. Note the role of an older and experienced spiritual guide in teaching him how to respond to this strange encounter. Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1Samuel 3:1–10 NRSV)
SUN – 190210
Title
The God who calls: Moses
Body
The readings in church today feature several episodes where someone senses God calling them to get engaged in the mission of God in ways they would never have imagined, and sometimes a call they actively resisted. During the week the Daily Morsels will focus on some classic examples of the God who calls, which is a key element of our Epiphany theme between tween Christmas and Ash Wednesday. We begin with Moses who is “ambushed” by God at the burning bush, and who finds that call irresistible even while seeking to evade it. Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:1–6, 13–14 NRSV)
Sat – 190209
Title
The disciple’s secret
Body
Paul of Tarsus shared his own discovery as an intentional disciple of Jesus: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NRSV)
Fri – 190208
Title
Intentionally eclectic
Body
Eucharist, prayer and Bible reading are the big three spiritual disciplines for intentional discipleship, but there are many more. These include cell groups, compassionate action for justice and environmental stewardship, fasting, labyrinth, pilgrimage, preparing a rule of life, sacrificial distribution of our own resources for mission, spiritual direction, and volunteering our time for church and community projects. Which of these spiritual disciplines we embrace depends on our circumstances and perhaps our personalities, but the call to intentional discipleship is universal.
Thr – 190207
Title
Attentive intentional disciples
Body
Paul once urged his friends in Thessalonika to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:16). Prayer is at the heart of intentional discipleship. At its most basic level, this means we cultivate mindfulness: we are attentive to the presence of Christ within us, in others, and around us. Our personal and collective rituals can help us develop and sustain our mindfulness, and from that will flow a deeper experience of prayer in all its forms: contemplation, thanksgiving, protest, and intercession.
Wed – 190206
Title
Intentional disciples around the Table of Jesus
Body
As Anglicans, we are blessed with a rich heritage of spiritual practices that can be embraced as we commit to intentional discipleship. Some of them (like Baptism) are once in a lifetime events, while others are practices that we can use regularly in our own spiritual disciplines. Gathering with other believers for the Lord’s Supper is perhaps the first and greatest spiritual discipline for anyone who is serious about intentional discipleship. We need to ensure that our weekly Eucharistic gatherings are engaging and transformative, and not simply a case of going through the motions. What we celebrate in the Eucharist is the saving presence of God in Jesus and among us. Our liturgies should express that dynamic reality.
Tue -190205
Title
Intentional discipleship redux
Body
An intentional relationship with Jesus? That would be a continuous Epiphany experience as we discover more and more about God’s loving and compassionate purposes for the universe, including our own selves. That would be a lifelong commitment to shape our lives around the beliefs and practices that mattered to Jesus. That would be to engage in compassionate action to bring the effective reign of God into the lived experience of our families, friends and local communities.
Mon – 190204
Title
Intentional discipleship overview
Body
As a focus for reflection this week, I will post excerpts from the longer essay that I posted yesterday. These bite-sized snippets may serve as a doorway to deepen reflection. An intentional relationship with Jesus? An intentional relationship with Jesus is going to be about practice (what we do and how we treat people) more than with ideas (what we believe and how we explain our faith to others). As the practical Christian wisdom found in the Letter of James puts it: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2:18)
SUN – 190203
Title
Intentional discipleship
Body
I am not preaching today, although I am presenting a seminar on the Year of Luke as part of the Dean’s Forum series at 11.00am. That presentation should be available as a video afterwards and maybe I can even get the technological ducks in a neat line so the presentation can be live streamed … In the meantime, let me share a short piece on intentional discipleship that was published in the February 2019 issue of North Coast Anglican which will be available in churches across the Diocese of Grafton this morning. I especially invite to think about the place of the three great spiritual disciples in your own intentional practice as a disciple of Jesus:
• gathering at the Table of Jesus with other disciples
• prayerful attentiveness to life
• engaging with our sacred scriptures
Sat – 190202 – Presentation of Christ
Title
Candlemas
Body
Today we have a festival that is not so well known these days: Candlemas. As this occurs 40 days from December 25, in some places this was the day when Christmas decorations were taken down. Before the days of electricity, this was the day when families brought their candles to be blessed. We have no real modern equivalent. Blessing our solar panels is a tad trickier. In traditional Jewish lore, 40 days after childbirth marked the time when the mother was ‘purified’ and able to return to everyday life. The old BCP service for the Churching of Women reflects a similar custom, but is now listed in the Prayer Book as a service of Thanksgiving for a Child. The “40 days” is a symbolic period, found in many biblical stories. In our busy high-tech lives, we do well to revive the ancient art of marking the passage of time with traditional observances that also reflect the cycle of our lives. These gentle rituals can be our ‘songlines’ as we navigate the strange new world in which we seek to sing the Lord’s song.
Fri – 190201
Title
February already
Body
Here we are on the first day of the second month … February In the ancient north from which my tribes come, this is the last of the cold months. The snow remains on the ground. Fresh food was once no longer available. These were tough times. Surely spring will soon be here? In the ancient south land where my soul has its roots, these are stinking hot days. Summer has not yet released its grip. The hottest days may yet be to come. Sometimes interrupted by cyclones and floods. We love a sunburnt country … The cycle of nature turns, for all creatures great and small, even for self-obsessed humans. Autumn will soon be here (down south) and spring will soon be here (up north). Time to press the reset button and get ready for the new opportunities and challenges that will soon be here.
Posted in Archive, Grafton Cathedral, Morsels | Leave a comment

Morsels 2019 January

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these version of the content are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

Thr – 190131
Title
Travel light
Body
Remember, when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received, only what you have given: a heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage. — St Francis of Assisi
Wed – 190130
Title
Charles I, king and martyr
Body
Today is a quintessentially Anglican holy day. There are many saints among the royalty, including some who renounced their privilege to pursue a monastic life. The commemoration of the British king from the Stuart dynasty as a martyr is more problematic than most. Charles and the royalist forces supporting him were defeated in 1646 by the Puritans. The brief republican experiment (ruled by Oliver Cromwell) ended with the restoration of the monarchy and the accession of Charles II in 1660. The famous Book of Common Prayer was published in 1662 as part of the restoration of the Church of England as the state church. Charles I was executed on this day in 1649. Was this just a political dispute that proved fatal for Charles, or was he acting out of religious conviction? He was clearly no democrat, but saintliness is not derived from our politics. On the other hand, modern Anglicanism is deeply indebted to Charles’ insistence on bishops and sacraments, and to the BCP in which those values were encoded. At the very least, perhaps we should use this day to pray for people of faith serving in public office? It can be difficult to live by one’s convictions in a place where compromise is the norm.
Tue – 190129
Title
School is back
Body
As our schools resume for the new year, we acknowledge the privilege of living in a society that can afford well-funded schools, with excellent facilities and a dedicated cadre of professional teachers. We celebrate the curiosity of children and their passion to learn. May our schools be communities of learning and service, in which both student and teacher each learn more about themselves and the world with each passing day.
Mon – 190128
Title
Thomas Aquinas
Body
Thomas was born in southern Italy in 1225. As the youngest son of a wealthy family that had connections in royal circles as well as in the church, Thomas was always destined to pursue a life in the church. Thomas came to be one of the greatest exponents of natural theology, and his extensive writings were required reading for Roman Catholic ordinands over many centuries. His systematic theological ideas which attempted to synthesise Aristotelian thought with Christian beliefs, became known as Thomism. These ideas shaped Western thinking until the Enlightenment and remain influential in some circles until this day. Thomas a person of immense learning, who was open to wisdom from non-Christian sources, and remained passionate about serving as a teacher for ordinary Christians. We have much to learn from his legacy.
SUN – 190127
Title
Being on country
Body
When I returned to the northern rivers in March 2017, I was very conscious of returning to country. It was exactly 50 years after moving to Brisbane as a teenager in March 1967. I was back in the place where I was born and raised. Back in the place where my parents and grandparents lived, and where those who have died are buried. My country. My place. In today’s Gospel reading (Luke 4:14–21) Jesus returns home to Nazareth. He is back in the village where he is known and among the people who know his parents, his sisters and his brothers. He is returning to country. Where is ‘country’ for you? What place calls you home?
Sat – 190126 AUSTRALIA DAY
Title
God of holy dreaming
Body
This beautiful prayer composed by local Yaegl woman and priest, Lenore Parker, seems highly appropriate for Australia Day: God of holy dreaming, Great Creator Spirit, from the dawn of creation you have given your children the good things of Mother Earth. You spoke and the gum tree grew. In the vast desert and dense forest, and in cities at the water’s edge, creation sings your praise. Your presence endures as the rock at the heart of our Land. When Jesus hung on the tree you heard the cries of all your people and became one with your wounded ones: the convicts, the hunted, and the dispossessed. The sunrise of your Son coloured the earth anew, and bathed it in glorious hope. In Jesus we have been reconciled to you, to each other and to your whole creation. Lead us on, Great Spirit, as we gather from the four corners of the earth; enable us to walk together in trust from the hurt and shame of the past into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ. Amen. This prayer is published in A Prayer Book for Australia, p. 218. It will be used as the Preface for the Great Thanksgiving Prayer at the Australia Day Eucharist in the Cathedral this Sunday.
Fri – 190125
Title
Babel
Body
During Morning Prayer today we will read the ancient legend of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9). If we can dream it, then we can … create it … discover it … invent it … go there … Our capacity to imagine what is not yet might be one of our greatest spiritual assets. But hubris is never far away if it becomes all about us, rather than finding our place with humility in the great scheme of things. Inspire our dreams, Lord, and give us humility. And a passion to serve.
Thr – 190124
Title
The companions of St Paul
Body
If only they had business cards in the first century.
Paul of Tarsus
Slave of Jesus the Anointed
Apostle to the Nations
paul@thenations.info
And then there were his companions, including Phoebe the deacon, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla, Silas and Titus:
Phoebe
Deacon in the Church of God
Accredited agent for Paul of Tarsus
phoebe@loveinaction.org
There were no business card and no emails, but these people helped turn the world upside down. It is amazing what a small group of dedicated people can achieve.
Wed – 190123
Title
Earth Covenant
Body
At Morning Prayer today we read the final section of the Great Flood story in the Bible (Genesis 8). As Noah and his companions exit the ark and resume their lives on dry land, there is a fresh beginning for all earth creatures as God resolves never again to destroy the earth due to human wickedness: “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21–22 NRSV) At a time when human activity is driving climate change on a scale that threatens the survival of our global eco-system, we might do well to retrieve this ancient fragment of spiritual wisdom. How do we understand God’s engagement with all creation and not just with our own species? What does “Emmanuel” (God with us) look like when the “us” is nature and not just humans.
Tue – 190122
Title
Vincent of Saragossa
Body
Vincent was a contemporary of Agnes of Rome, but lived in Spain. As Diocletian’s Edict of Persecution was implemented even in the most western provinces of the empire, Vincent was arrested along with his bishop, Valerius. After refusing to recant the faith he was tortured and executed on this day in 304. For most of us our faith will not involve any serious hardship. Despite the occasional protests by radical right-wing Christians, we enjoy substantial protections to practice our religion, significant tax concessions, and enormous religious freedom. These were not the result of the ancient imperial Christians (who simply turned the power of the empire on their pagan and Jewish opponents) nor the European reformers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Our freedom is a legacy of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which ended wars between Catholics and Protestants which had raged for many decades. The treaty ending the conflict agreed that religion would be a matter of private freedom and should not limit a citizen’s participation in public life or influence how they treat other citizens.
Mon – 190121
Title
Agnes of Rome
Body
Today and tomorrow we commemorate two martyrs from the last few years of pagan Rome, just prior to the adoption of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine. Agnes is one of many Christians martyred during the persecutions promoted as official imperial policy aimed at restraining the rise of Christianity and restoring public devotion to the traditional pagan gods. For the most part the story of Agnes is remote from our experience, although that is not the case for people in some societies where traditional religious values can still lead to violence against individual Christians or whole congregations. The courage and integrity of martyrs such as Agnes were among the factors that ensured the triumph of Christianity over traditional pagan religion. Agnes was only 13 years of age when tortured and executed on this day in 304 CE.
SUN – 190120
Title
Transformation
Body
The Gospel reading in all the mainline churches today will be the story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding celebration in Cana, a village quite close to Nazareth. Anyone who can do that would certainly attract a strong following. How many “likes” would Jesus have scored on Facebook that week? And how many letters to the editor would have demanded that he should stick to religion and stop undermining the moral fabric of the community? The point of the story is not the quality of the wine (the best ever tasted by the MC on the night) or the staggering quantities produced. This is a story of transformation, together with the promise that the best is yet to come (“you have the best until last”). The water of our own lives can be transformed into wine as we say yes to God and allow divine grace to work its magic in our lives.
Sat – 190119
Title
Simple acts of kindness
Body
“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” —Mahatma Ghandi
Fri – 190118
Title
East of Eden
Body
This morning’s OT reading tells of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden and then, some years later, the expulsion of Cain to a place “east of Eden”. Sometimes the Bible works best when it teases our imagination and this may be one of those times. The representative primeval family are already “out of Eden” but now their firstborn child is banished to an even more remote place: “the land of Nod east of Eden”. This is the existential location of all Earthlings. We are exiled from Eden, and then condemned to wander restlessly across the face of the land. We are all located “east of Eden” in the “land of Nod”, perhaps better translated as the “land of restlessness”. This was the lived experience of the storytellers who fashioned this text, but Christians affirm that even “east of Eden” God is to be found. At the Table of Jesus the human family is reunified and we discover Emmanuel, the God who is amongst us: within and between us. Any where, any time. At every Eucharist. Even east of Eden.
Thr – 190117
Title
St Anthony of Egypt
Body
From Serbia on Monday the lectionary now takes us to Egypt as we commemorate Anthony of Egypt (251 to 356 CE). His long life would be unusual at any time, but especially so during a turbulent 100 years that saw Christianity survive savage persecution and become the official religion of the Roman Empire. What a fascinating time to have been alive. The spiritual genius of Anthony—and the reason we honour him to this day—is his decision to turn away from the public privileges of a newly-emancipated Christianity and to pursue a deeper and more faithful Christian path in the desert. He was not the first of the ‘desert fathers’ and ‘desert mothers’, but he is the one who established patterns for monastic life in the desert which gave stability and form to these informal communities of extreme spiritual practice. At a time when Christianity was enjoying its new alliance with empire, the desert monks were nurturing an older tradition of discipleship as something profoundly counter-cultural.
Wed – 190116
Title
Earthlings
Body
This week the OT readings at Morning Prayer have been coming from the opening chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. After the poetry of Genesis 1 this morning we have the earthy imagery of the second creation story, as God creates humans not with a divine command but by getting her hands dirty in the soil. In this ancient text, the first human (‘adam in Hebrew) is crafted from the soil (‘adamah) as later all the other earth creatures were also crafted. At first this human was neither male nor female: simply ‘adam, the Earthling. Whatever our gender and irrespective of our sexual orientation, we are all simply Earthlings in God’s eyes. Creatures derived from the beloved Earth. We are not the only earthlings, but this ancient Hebrew myth invites us to see our deepest vocation as being to tend the earth and care for the other earth creatures.
Tue – 190115
Title
Epiphany people
Body
The Sundays between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent are observed as the Epiphany season. This period is a liminal space: an in-between kind of time, a time of transition, a period for reflection. A time for mindfulness and attention. “Epiphany” is an ancient Greek term that means manifestation or revelation. During Advent and Christmas, we have been celebrating Emmanuel, the God who is to be found among us, and now we are invited to reflect on on the Epiphany moments in our own lives: those times when we catch a glimpse of the Sacred One who is always present but often unnoticed. As we practice mindfulness and become more attentive to the texture of our lives, may our personal rituals and spiritual practices give us eyes to see the God “in whom we love and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Mon – 190114
Title
Saint Sava, Archbishop of Serbia
Body
Well off the radar for most western Christians is a Serbian Orthodox holy man, who was a contemporary of the better-known (to us), St Francis of Assisi. We celebrate his life in the Anglican Church of Australia today. Sava (1174–1236) was a Serbian prince who joined the famous Orthodox monastic community at Mount Athos after renouncing his secular privileges . He was eventually reconciled with his father who even renounced the throne and became a monk at Mt Athos himself. See the web link below for more details. I am glad that the Anglican calendar invites us to honour saints from traditions with which we have little historical connection or cultural continuity. The gospel is much bigger than our own culture.
SUN – 190113 BAPTISM OF JESUS
Title
Baptism of Jesus
Body
Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The baptism of Jesus is not simply a moment of transition in his adult life nor is it simply a reminder that Jesus was an active participant in the normal rituals of the Jewish religion in Palestine in his time. The baptism of Jesus is also a story that invites us to recognise that Jesus had his own authentic personal religious experiences. That may be something about which we have not thought very much. Like all of us, Jesus would have developed a sense of awe in the face of the mystery of existence and like some of us he came to understand that the sacred dimension of life could best be understood as the God calls us into being and invites us into the future. Just as we each have to discover our own vocation and calling, so Jesus had to grow in his understanding of himself and of what faithfulness to God was going to mean for him in his own unique particularity. In other words, Jesus had a spiritual life and this included moments of religious experience.
Sat – 190112
Title
Make room for the outsiders
Body
How an author begins and concludes their work often reveals what is central to their concerns. As he commences his revision of the Gospel of Mark, Matthew created a beautiful midrash that sets Jesus into the sacred story alongside characters such as Joseph, Moses and Joshua. Not a bad CV at all. But time had passed. Already we are several decades after the death of Jesus. Matthew knows two things: (1) many Jews (and perhaps most) think Jesus was a traitor and a heretic, and (2) Jesus is attracting a very big following among the non-Jewish populations in cities like Antioch where is where Matthew himself is most likely based. He needs to celebrate the Jewish pedigree of Jesus while also offering a place in the story for outsiders who become insiders. The entourage of pagans who worship the Christ Child in Matthew—and only in Matthew—are the promise of success for the commission given by Jesus in the closing paragraph of the Gospel of Matthew: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19–20) There is room for everyone in the Jesus story. Outsiders become insiders.
Fri – 190111
Title
A caravan of oriental visitors
Body
Matthew could have spun his midrash for the birth of Jesus, including Herod’s murderous rage, without any need to add a visit by foreign sages. But he had more to teach his readers than the Jewish pedigree of Jesus. Matthew was also passionate about the significance of Jesus for the gentiles, for those people without any Jewish descent. Which is most of us. In the decades before Matthew was drafting his revised and enlarged edition of Mark’s Gospel there were occasional state visits to the Roman emperor by oriental rulers from beyond the empire seeming to establish cordial diplomatic relationships. Details of these and other parallels to Matthew’s birth narrative have been blended together by Matthew to create the spectacular scene of a visit to Bethlehem by an entourage of unspecified size (but certainly more than three individuals), bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew is not recording history here, but appealing to his non-Jewish audience. They too have a part in the story of Jesus. God’s purposes in sending Jesus were not restricted to the Jewish nation, but extend to everyone, everywhere at all times.
Thr – 190110
Title
Joseph
Body
Next in Matthew’s legend of Jesus’ birth we meet a character named Joseph. Guess what? God speaks to him in dreams. Well, what else who happen to a guy called Joseph, a Jewish listener would say. Apart from being sent down to Egypt, which happens in Matthew 2! This Joseph is both a dreamer, and an upright man, who seeks to treat the women in his life properly. So already the readers of Matthew are beginning to think about Joseph, Egypt and liberation as the framework for the story of Jesus that Matthew is about to tell them. Joseph is told to go ahead with his plans to marry Mary and to treat the unborn child as his own. He is even instructed on what name to give the child. The child is not to be called ‘Joseph’, as a traditional Jew may have expected, but ‘Joshua’. Joshua was the successor to Moses and the person who—in the biblical narrative even if not in real history—conquers the land of Canaan so that the tribes of Israel can possess the ‘promised land’. Piece by piece, Matthew is assembling his story about the birth of Jesus.
Wed – 190109
Title
Women with ‘history’
Body
Matthew has crafted his story about the birth of Jesus very carefully so that it fits Jesus into the biblical drama of salvation. He begins with a genealogy that is selective (with three sets of 14 ancestors), but traces Jesus back to Abraham, the ancestor of the Jewish people. Cleverly woven into that list of male ancestors are four women, each of them with something irregular about their sexual history: (1) Tamar, a widow who pretends to be a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law to secure her rights within the family (see Genesis 38, but be warned this content is for adult readers only); (2) Ruth, a foreign woman from Moab, who becomes the great-grandmother of King David after spending the night with her future husband to secure his intervention on her behalf (see Ruth 3); (3) Bathsheba, who is not named here but simply listed as the “wife of Uriah”—a woman who David sexually abused and then arranged to have her husband murdered so that he could add Bathsheba to his harem (see 2 Samuel 11); (4) And Mary, who was discovered to be pregnant even before Joseph had slept with her. It seems we do not need to have a perfect family background for God to be at work among us, and for God to use us to move God’s purposes ahead. For many of us even that wee bit of the story is good news indeed. ‘Broken thing for broken people’..
Tue – 190108
Title
Matthew’s midrash for the birth of Jesus
Body
Matthew seems to preserve the earliest written story about the birth of Jesus. It was not a tradition found in Matthew’s older source, the Gospel of Mark. And it was not a tradition that was of any interest to the contemporary Gospel of John. As we see in John 6:42 (“They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”), the Gospel of John simply assumes that Joseph and Mark were the parents of Jesus even though John also affirms most clearly the divinity of Jesus in the famous Logos hymn that serves as the prologue for that gospel. We will explore Matthew’s infancy midrash over the next couple of days. For now we can note that the point of these birth stories is not his divinity but about his calling as the prophet of God, the one who comes to ‘save’ his people.
Mon – 190107
Title
Midrash
Body
Midrash is a form of Jewish education in which a story is developed around a simpler biblical or historical moment, to explain how it happened and also to explore the deeper meaning of the event. For example, ancient Jews such as St Paul were familiar with a midrash about the rock in the wilderness that flowed with water when struck by Moses. The midrash solved the problem about how the people got water on other days and at other locations, without leaving a trail of leaking rocks all over the wilderness—and turning the desert into a green parkland. In the midrash this technical problem was solved by the same rock magically relocating with the Israelites each time they moved. (see web link below) As Paul cited the midrash in 1 Corinthians 10:1–5: “… for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” Paul does not quote the legend, but he assumes that his readers know about it, and he extends the legend by claiming that the supernatural rock that followed the Israelite through the wilderness from one location to another (which they all knew about) was actually Christ. Midrash invites us into a story and within that story we find a deeper truth being presented, but it is a form of truth that is not mortgaged to historicity.
SUN – 190106 EPIPHANY
Title
Three Kings Day
Body
Here we are on the twelfth day of Christmas in the West, while tonight our friends in the Middle East begin their Christmas celebrations. Antiochene Christians, Copts, Greek Orthodox, Melkites, Russian Orthodox and Syriac Christian communities begin their celebration after sunset today. For Armenians, Christmas begins on January 19. The major celebration, of courses, will be at the ancient Church of the Nativity, where the Orthodox faithful from different national and linguistic communities will gather for prayer and singing prior to the start of the liturgy. At the centre of those celebrations will be the venerated cave where tradition says the birth of Jesus occurred. Both in the West and in the East, this is a day when we celebrate the legend of the wise men who—in Matthew’s Gospel—come from afar to venerate the newborn king of the Jews.
Sat – 190105
Title
When sorrow and sadness flee
Body
“And a highway shall appear there, Which shall be called the Sacred Way. No one unclean shall pass along it, But it shall be for them. No traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, No ferocious beast shall set foot on it— These shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk it; And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come with shouting to Zion, Crowned with joy everlasting. They shall attain joy and gladness, While sorrow and sighing flee.” (Isaiah 35:8–10 JPS)
Fri – 190104
Title
When God is among us
Body
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb shall shout aloud; For waters shall burst forth in the desert, Streams in the wilderness.” (Isaiah 35:5–6 JPS)
Thr – 190103
Title
Security derives from integrity
Body
More ancient Jewish wisdom in these first few days of a new year: “He who walks in righteousness, Speaks uprightly, Spurns profit from fraudulent dealings, Waves away a bribe instead of grasping it, Stops his ears against listening to infamy, Shuts his eyes against looking at evil— Such a one shall dwell in lofty security, With inaccessible cliffs for his stronghold, With his food supplied And his drink assured.” (Isaiah 33:15–16 JPS)
Wed – 190102
Title
Justice, righteousness, peace
Body
“Till a spirit from on high is poured out on us, And wilderness is transformed into farm land, While farm land rates as mere brush. Then justice shall abide in the wilderness And righteousness shall dwell on the farm land. For the work of righteousness shall be peace, And the effect of righteousness, calm and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:15–17 Jewish Publication Society translation)
Tue – 190101
Title
Live as God’s chosen ones …
Body
Ancient thoughts for the first day of a new year: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12–15 NRSV)
Posted in Archive, Grafton Cathedral, Morsels | Leave a comment

Morsels 2018 December

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these version of the content are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

Mon – 181231
Title
I am about to do a new thing
Body
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honour me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43:18–21 NRSV)
SUN – 181230
Title
A new commandment
Body
Love is the critical DNA of the Christian person: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35 NRSV)
Sat – 181229
Title
Loving others
Body
First things first: Love for God. Everything else flows from that first great commitment to a life lived at depth. Without that commitment, nothing else matters. It is all hollow and empty. But notice what does follow—not a traditional list of religious duties, but rather the simple call to love other people. Their concerns and their wellbeing are to matter to us just as much as our survival and our own comfort. In the car park at the shopping centre … While merging in the traffic to get across the bridge … When we would rather be somewhere else … When we really do not have the time to listen to their story (again) …
Fri 181228
Title
Loving God
Body
‘Love for God’ means not so much a romantic attachment to some divine figure, but rather us being alert to the depth dimension of life. Our heart, our soul, our mind and all our strength are to be brought to bear on the great task of asking why are we here, and what does the Lord require of me? This task will involve our whole person (heart, soul, mind, strength), and it takes our whole lifetime to complete the work.
Thr – 181227
Title
Love at the centre
Body
Not only is love at the centre of the Christmas story, it is also at the very centre of the faith that we practice. When Jesus was once asked to define the core obligations of humans as he understood things, he famously replied: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29–31 NRSV)
Wed – 181226
Title
The Word became flesh
Body
The distinctive Christian affirmation is captured in these ancient words from the opening of the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. … From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:14,16 NRSV)
Tue – 181225
Title
God so loved the world
Body
The earliest Christians were in no doubt that Jesus coming among us was a most remarkable expression of God’s love for all humanity. This idea that the coming of Jesus was a direct result of God’s love for the world is most famously expressed in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Mon – 181224
Title
When the time was right
Body
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4–6 NRSV)
SUN – 181223
Title
Love, actually
Body
Love is at the centre of the Christmas story, even when there are no shepherds and no wise men, no journey to Bethlehem and no magical star in the sky. All of these legendary elements add colour and beauty to our celebration of Christmas, but what matters, of course, is the underlying message that Jesus is the love of God for us expressed in a human life.
Sat – 181222
Title
The peace of God
Body
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Paul wraps up this section with words that are very familiar to us as they have become part of the general blessing at the end of a Eucharist, even though when he wrote them in his short letter to the Philippians no one else had ever quite put it that way before. When we find our deepest meaning in Jesus, the human face of God … When others find us to be gentle people … When we can set aside our natural instinct to worry … When we bring our troubles to God with thanksgiving … … then the peace of God which passes all understanding guards our hearts and minds. When our hearts and our minds are guarded by God’s peace, we have joy. May the hope and the peace that we celebrated these past two Sundays in Advent, mean that this week we find real joy.
Fri – 181221
Title
Do not worry about anything
Body
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6) Now Paul shifts the focus: from how others experience us, to how we handle the adversities that inevitably come our way. Note that Paul assumes ‘stuff will happen’. When ‘stuff happens’ in our lives we are not to worry about it, but rather bring everything that is happening to God, letting God know how we feel about the situation and seeking grace to deal with it. Things that might otherwise cause us to be anxious can now become something we bring to God with thanksgiving; in an attitude of gratitude. Paul is going beyond the “don’t be anxious” advice we find in the Gospels, and urging his readers to bring their worries to God with thanksgiving. When we can do that, then we have found a sweet spot indeed, and our trust in the Lord is sustaining us through times when we might otherwise meltdown. We will not get this right every time. Sometimes we will complain loudly and let God know exactly how unfair life seems. And that is OK as well. But sometimes we will get it right. When we trust God enough to be grateful even for the bad stuff—as it is happening, and not only with the benefit of hindsight—then we are getting very close to having found real joy.
Thr – 181220
Title
Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
Body
Paul suggests that if we have a deep sense of joy and if we are truly at peace within ourselves, then others should experience us as gentle people. Gentle people? That almost seems like a quaint old-fashioned idea. But it invites us to think more deeply about how we conduct ourselves. Are religious people known for our gentleness? Do we have reputations as gentle people among our families and friends? Or do we kick heads and push others around, just like everyone else? Worse still, are we seen as people trying to push our religion down other’s throats? And are we really people who want to the legal right to discriminate against students and teachers in Christian schools because of their gender or their sexuality? Surely not. Paul suggests that joyful people, as people who realise that the Lord is near, will be gentle and that everyone else will recognise that about us. If only that were so!
Wed – 181219
Title
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!
Body
The underlying Greek word Paul used here was also the everyday greeting when people met in the street or sent a letter: χαιρε [chaire]. It was the word on the lips of Judas as he greeted Jesus in the garden, and the words used by the soldiers as they mocked Jesus, “Hail, king of the Jews!” As used by Paul here, we note that he adds “… in the Lord …”. We are to wish one another—and also ourselves—happiness, health, peace, success and well-being in the Lord. Our joy finds its roots in Jesus himself. The blessings we wish for others come from Jesus. What we hope for ourselves comes from Jesus, and is grounded in all that he means to us. That makes joy an appropriate theme for reflection today as we get closer to Christmas Day. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Tue – 181218
Title
What are we doing when we read the Bible?
Body
Let’s remind ourselves why we read the Bible. It is not because grabbing a few words from the Bible will provide us with a recipe for joy, or the answers to life’s questions. We read the texts not to hear what God has said in the past, but to hear how other people of faith have spoken about God in the past so that we are better equipped to listen to God in the present. This week we are reflecting on some words from Paul, and therefore words from someone with a deep insight into the dynamics of faith and life. As we do so, we are opening our hearts and minds to discern the whisper of Spirit who makes the human words of the Bible a sacrament of invitation to live more deeply and more truly. When that happens then the ‘word of the Lord’ has been proclaimed heard.
Mon – 181217
Title
Joy is not the same as …
Body
As we begin a few days of reflection on joyfulness, let’s set aside some common misconceptions about joy: Joy is not the same as happiness Joy is not the same as being amused or entertained Joy is not always expressed in laughter or a cheery face Joy does not mean we are carefree or untroubled Joy is not a result of alcohol, drugs and medication Joy is not having the latest consumer products Joy is not about lots of sex
SUN – 181216
Title
Rejoice in the Lord always
Body
The New Testament reading for this Third Sunday of Advent: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:4–7]
Sat – 181215
Title
Neither shall they learn war any more
Body
The ancient Jewish prophet, Isaiah of Jerusalem, imagines a world to which we may all aspire: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4 NRSV) Hasten that day, O Lord.
Fri – 181214
Title
Peace among religions
Body
Hans Küng, an eminent Roman Catholic theologian, has famously invited us to reflect on the need for peace among the religions as a basis for peace among the nations: “No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions No dialogue between the religions without investigation of the foundation of the religions.” ― Hans Küng, Christianity: Essence, History, Future
Thr – 181213
Title
Peace within the churches
Body
The culture wars that are polarising societies throughout the western world are also impacting the internal life of various Christian communities. Despite the progress seen in formal ecumenical relationships across the churches, the Christian world remains deeply divided. Indeed, we even have two rival ecumenical organisations in many parts of Australia, and opposing lobby groups claim a mandate to speak on behalf of Australia’s Christians to the federal government. The unresolved debate about protecting religious freedom is something of a proxy for the competition between different expressions of Christianity. Christians who embrace a more conservative mix of social views and theological opinion tend to feel the need for ‘protection’, while Christians who favour a more progressive outlook tend to see no need for such measures. For many Christians, it seems that what divides us is more important than what we have in common. This week we might pray for a more generous attitude between and among the Christian factions, and that peace within the churches might displace competition between the followers of Jesus.
Wed – 181212
Title
Peace within our families
Body
The ancient words of Psalm 133 invite us to reflect on peace when it is expressed as harmony among those whose lives are closely bound together: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1–3 NRSV) The psalmist uses the metaphor of being anointed with holy oil, indeed drenched with this “precious oil” that was used to anoint the priests who served at the Altar. Peace among those with whom our lives are most closely bound is indeed a precious blessing.
Tue – 181211
Title
Dreaming of peace
Body
Around 2,700 years ago, a Jewish prophet in Jerusalem captured his dream of a future time of peace in words that have become part of our Advent and Christmas celebrations: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6–9 NRSV) What is your dream for peace look like? What are you doing to help bring it to reality?
Mon – 181210
Title
The peace of Christ
Body
As the Gospel of John portrays Jesus and his disciples moving closer to the moment of his arrest, Jesus speaks of peace (among other things). The scene is anything but peaceful. Tension is mounting. The betrayer is already on his way with an armed gang to arrest Jesus. Events are moving inexorably towards a climax that none of the characters in the story seem to appreciate. The lived experience of the Johannne community over several decades finds expression in these words that cut through the gloom like a candle in the dark: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27 NRSV) Jesus is not promising life without challenges, pain or upsets. But he promises the gift of an inner peace that is different from any “peace” imposed by imperial violence. This kind of peace is not about control and exploitation, but about freedom and flourishing. Lord, grant us that peace. Transform our world, which is really your world.
SUN – 181209
Title
Seven Days of Peace
Body
Well, maybe not seven days OF peace, but seven days to reflect on peace, to renew our personal commitment as peace-makers, and to add our prayers to the groans of the deep universe as it longs for that long-awaited outbreak of peace and goodwill promised by the angels in Luke’s Christmas story: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!” (Luke 2:14 NRSV) As we noted back in September when we reflected on the seventh Beatitude in Matthew 5, peacemakers are not always celebrated and affirmed, and especially not by those whose violence they are seeking to diminish and even end. Yet to be a child of God is to be someone engaged in peacemaking. This is core business for people of faith. It is in our DNA. We yearn for peace.
Sat – 181208
Title
St Patrick’s Breastplate
Body
This excerpt from the traditional prayer attributed to St Patrick may serve as a reflection as we end this first week of Advent: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.
Fri – 181207
Title
A world without walls
Body
We don’t build walls in a hopeful world. Not in Palestine and not on the Mexico border. Those walls will fall; because they represent fear, not hope. As do the off-shore detention centres. When God’s kingdom comes, as we ask each time we say the Lord’s Prayer, there will be no room for fear or violence. There will be no walls and no eternal detention centres. Even Hell itself will be empty. Its gates will be ripped off by the victorious Christ, and all its inmates will be freed. We live in hope …
Thr – 181206
Title
When hope goes viral
Body
At Grafton Cathedral, our doors are open … our hearts are open … our minds are open. Such a mindset is the ground of hope: for us and for others. We want to see hope go viral. We do not seek to control it, define it, limit it, or restrict it. We do not aspire to hold any monopoly on hope. The more people who have some real hope the better our world will be: less fearful, more compassionate, more generous and less violent.
Wed – 181205
Title
Invitational grace
Body
We do not derive our hope from imagining the destruction of those with whom we disagree. And we do not ‘sell’ hope to ourselves and our neighbours by spreading fear. That is not the way of Jesus. We proclaim hope, not fear. We invite, rather than impose our values on others. We create safe places to explore grace, rather than define the boundaries to keep people out.
Tue – 181204
Title
Spiritual steroids
Body
The readings set for Advent Sunday do not really help all that much with the deep project of growing hope while avoiding collateral spiritual damage. The lectionary choices at the start of Advent tend to focus on the great reversal at the end of time, and perhaps even encourage us to derive some degree of hope from a perverted anticipation that God is going to punish those who make us afraid for the future. That is what apocalyptic literature is designed to do: raise the hopes of victims who are suffering from more powerful opponents. But that literature trades on violence and simply imagines ‘them’ getting a serious dose of what ‘they’ have been dishing out to ‘us’. Apocalyptic texts offer spiritual steroids for critical moments, but not a long-term dietary supplement for a healthy life.
Mon – 181203
Title
More than whistling in the dark
Body
Hope is an attitude of the heart and it lies somewhere between wishful thinking and certainty. It is not whistling in the dark to calm our fears. Nor is it a cocky self-confidence that acts as if we have all the answers. In the world at large, among our family and friends, in our neighbourhood, and in our workplaces there is numerous attributes that reflect a lack of hope: confusion, despair, disbelief, doubt, fear, hatred, pessimism and tiredness. As the people of Jesus we overturn those grim realities and Advent is a time to recall that we are first of all people of hope.
SUN – 181202
Title
ADVENT SUNDAY: Hope
Body
Here we are on the threshold of a new year of witness and service. It is Advent Sunday, and Christmas is just around the corner. Between now and then we have an opportunity to reflect on the core spiritual values that shape our preparation for the Christ Child and our mission to this city and region. Over each of the next few Sundays we will focus on these core values: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. They sound strangely familiar, and yet rather out of place in our contemporary world. Hope! There is clearly a hope deficit in our world and our nation at the present time. Trust is low. Fear is on the rise. Peace? Words fail. Violence continues to tear apart families, villages, cities and nations. Joy. The carols are playing on the muzak but road rage in the car parks at our shopping centres indicates that joy is often only skin deep, and below the surface we are angry and aggressive. Just try merging in the traffic leading to the Grafton bridge. What joy abounds. Not. Love. ‘What the world needs most’ is sadly lacking in so many of our everyday transactions with one another. Yet this is to be the hallmark of those who follow Jesus. We are not called to be correct, but we are called to love one another, turn the other cheek, to help the needy, and to go the second mile.
Sat – 181201
Title
A good Advent
Body
How are you going to use Advent to prepare for a Christmas that has a deep significance beyond calories and gift catalogues? Well, there is an app for that … of course. The GoodAdvent app offers daily material written by Dr Jane Williams, the Assistant Dean of St Mellitus College. Each day’s material includes a reflection by Dr Williams on a piece of art, a prayer, a Bible verse to read or listen to, and a practical thing you can do for Advent. This app is completely free and easy to use. Of course, you can also just use the daily Morsels from Grafton Cathedral, which will have an Advent theme between now and Christmas.
Posted in Archive, Grafton Cathedral, Morsels | Leave a comment

Morsels 2018 November

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these version of the content are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

Fri – 181130
Title
Andrew, brother of Simon Peter
Body
Today we observe the festival of St Andrew. This minor character from the Twelve is honoured posthumously as the founder of the see of Constantinople and the patron saint of Russia, the Ukraine, Romania and Scotland. Little is known of the historical figure behind these legends, but it seems he and his brother (Peter) were among several of Jesus’ disciples who came from the village of Bethsaida. In the Eastern Churches, Andrew is honoured as the Protokletos (the first-called), due to the tradition in the Gospel of John where Jesus invited Andrew to follow him, and Andrew later encourages Peter to join up as well. As the brother of Simon Peter, Andrew has been embraced by religious and ethnic communities seeking a patron saint who offers them some leverage against Roman claims to privilege based on the authority of Peter. As the Protokletos—and the one who brought Peter to Jesus—Andrew offers a spiritual authority which seems less coercive. Andrew offers a model of faith that seeks to serve rather than to dominate. For that we are indeed grateful.
Thr – 181129
Title
The point of religion
Body
As the Gospel of Mark presents the opening episodes from its story of Jesus, we find him and the disciples walking through a field on the Sabbath, picking grain to make a snack. In response to criticism from the Pharisees, Jesus offers a rebuttal that must have stung their ears: “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” The point of religion is not to make us religious, but to make us more fully and gloriously alive.
Wed – 181128
Title
Who needs the doctor?
Body
The lectionary for morning prayer this week draws on the opening scenes on the Gospel of Mark, and today we are offered the story of the paralysed man healed by Jesus after his friends smash a hole in the roof of the little house in Capernaum where Jesus was staying. I have been to the location many times. The jumble of small houses, mostly no larger than 5m x 5m but with an upper level accessed by rough stone steps, are clustered together in the insulae formation. Access to several adjoining homes is via a single shared entrance. Not much space. Very easily blocked by a crowd. Later in the day, reflecting on the events, Jesus offers this aphorism: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” We hear and respond to Jesus’ call to embrace healing and life. And we seek not to block others from doing the same. Rip off the roof if it stops people getting to the physician of their soul. We can fix the buildings (or the institution) after everyone is healed.
Tue – 181127
Title
Choosing life …
Body
The Gospel for morning prayer today has an interesting exchange between a leper and Jesus: A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ [Mark 1:40–41] “if you choose … I do choose …” The leper is choosing to take a risk. Maybe Jesus was as well. Choosing can be an act of hope and deep trust. Today, we choose life. Health. Wholeness.
Mon – 181126
Title
Stir up, we pray you, O Lord
Body
The traditional prayer for the Sunday before Advent is now used each day during the week between the Feast Christ the King (yesterday) and Advent Sunday: Stir up, we pray, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. This prayer has entered into our culture as “Stir Up Sunday”; a time when those making Christmas puddings were reminded to gather the ingredients and give the mix a good stir. See the web link for more details. In the meantime, may Jesus stir us up so we get engaged in compassionate action for the common good.
SUN – 18125
Title
The Reign of Christ
Body
The Cathedral Church of Christ the King in Grafton (like our sister Cathedral in Newcastle) is celebrating our feast of title today. My sermon on this feast last year, included these observations: What does it mean for us to be a cathedral community dedicated to Christ as our ‘king’? The term ‘king’ can be problematic here as it reflects a world of empire and certainty. We have neither. The empire has fallen. We live in a time of transition, and uncertainty is the air we breathe. But that exaggerated title still speaks to our core values:
* we are a community for whom Jesus is central
* it is no longer a claim to privilege
* it is no longer a claim to certainty
* but it is certainly our cardinal orientation
We are a community where Jesus matters:
* what he believed, we believe
* how he acted, is our model for action
* how he treated people, is our guide for life
Sat – 181124
Title
Hildegard of Bingen
Body
In a week when we have reflected on the legacy of Hannah, it seems appropriate to hear from another of the outstanding women of spirit, Hildegarde of Bingen (1098–1179 CE). “Holy Spirit, the life that gives life: You are the cause of all movement. You are the breath of all creatures. You are the salve that purifies our souls. You are the ointment that heals our wounds. You are the fire that warms our hearts. You are the light that guides our feet. Let all the world praise you.“ – Hildegard of Bingen
Fri – 181123
Title
Hannah’s Song
Body
After a couple of years have passed, Hannah brings her young child to Eli the priest at Shiloh, in fulfilment of her vow. In the narrative she then sings a psalm of thanksgiving, but the song she chooses is one that reflects a time in Israel’s history when there were kings in power. The Song of Hannah is a song grounded in the experience of a ‘barren’ woman who has been blessed with children: seven of them in this case. Her fortunes have been reversed by the God who is her Rock and her Salvation. Similar sentiments can be found in the close parallels at Psalm 113 and 2 Samuel 22. We can see why this song was placed on the lips of Hannah by the storyteller. Centuries later, when the author of the Gospel of Luke created his poetic story of the miraculous conceptions of both John and Jesus, he drew on the traditions about Hannah and Samuel. The Song of Mary that Luke created for his character to sing, was largely inspired by the ancient Song of Hannah. Both songs celebrate the reversal caused when the mighty are cast down and the lowly lifted up. The legacy of Hannah continues in these revolutionary words of the Magnificat. God turns our world upside down. God lifts up the lowly and casts down the privileged.
Thr – 181122
Title
What’s in a name?
Body
Hannah names her child of promise, Samuel. Picking a name for a child is a significant moment, and sometimes a long and complex process. Let’s pause and reflect on that for a moment. Do we know why our own parents chose our name for us? Have we shared with our children the reasons why we chose the names they now have? Faith at home can be built from sharing such simple yet profound stories.
Wed – 181121
Title
Hannah story, part 2
Body
A second thing to note about the story of Hannah: this is about a matter that is central to female identity. Hannah is desperate to have a child. Yes, Hannah has a husband. But he plays a very minor role in the story. Actually, it is more correct to say that Hannah shared her husband with another woman. It is complicated, we might say. ‘Biblical marriage’ rarely involved one man being married to one woman, and that there are many different forms of sexual relationships described in these ancient stories. But this text is not offering us a model for marriage. Its focus lies elsewhere. Of course, in the nature of things, the other woman was not having any trouble producing several children for their shared husband. This is a familiar motif in several OT narratives. For the ancient storytellers—and their audiences—such a detail in the story tells us nothing about the gynaecological health of the women. Rather, it is a ‘sign’ that God is at work, and that the child who will eventually be born to the woman who struggles to conceive naturally is going to be a very special person when he grows up. (The child seems always to be a male in the Bible stories.) Hannah is not simply a meme in someone else’s story. She is in charge of her fertility and she wants to have her own child. Maybe more, but one for starters. This is ‘herstory’, not his-tory. Issues of fertility and rivalry with other women rarely get named in church, even though they are a significant part of the lived experience of many women. They touch the lives of men deeply as well. Just ask Henry VIII! But we tiptoe around these challenges and pretend that we are all ‘happy’ and ‘normal’ folks. In the process we offer little hope to Hannah’s twenty-first century sisters Hannah calls us to openness, courage, transparency and hope. That is what salvation looks like for many real people on the fringes of our church. And even at the centre of our faith community.
Tue – 181120
Title
The day of the child
Body
Today is Universal Children’s Day. As we noted on Sunday, our children are gifts. We nurture and shape them, but they do not belong to us. They are bound to us and we to them, but we do not own them. As parents we are preparing our children to leave—and to become all that God has in store for them; in addition, we are also preparing ourselves to let them go. We pray for all children who are deprived of the joy of living and learning because of the fear of corporal punishment. Let us end the silence that condoned violence against children and the laws that perpetuate it. We know that it is impossible to achieve justice and peace while countless children suffer violence at the hands of those who should care for them. Inspire us to work together to transform our world and make it fit for children. And may no child be left behind.
Mon – 181119
Title
Hannah’s story
Body
The reading from 1 Samuel 1 on Sunday morning offers something rare in the Bible: a woman’s voice. We will look at the Song of Hannah later in the week, but for now let’s focus on the story of this feisty woman who will not be diverted from her quest by the reassurance of her husband or her priest. First of all, this is essentially a woman’s story. That is unusual in the Bible, where most of the stories are told about men and told by men. Hannah’s story has been shared and remembered by women, no doubt surviving in the oral tradition. This reminds us that women have always had their own perspective on the God story, and men mostly are unaware of it or else undervalue women’s perspective on life and faith. How might Christianity be different now if women were not excluded from the process of forming doctrine and shaping ministry? Hannah not only tells her story but she also gets her name into the tale. Again, that makes her different from the few women whose stories survived but whose names were mostly forgotten. Hannah demands that we hear her story and that we know about her. She has a name. And a voice.
SUN – 181118
Title
Hannah and Samuel
Body
Our first reading in church today tells the story of Hannah and her baby, Samuel. This ancient story offers simple and profound truth for us all. Our children are gifts. We nurture and shape them, but they do not belong to us. They are bound to us and we to them, but we do not own them. As parents we are preparing our children to leave—and to become all that God has in store for them; in addition, we are also preparing ourselves to let them go.
Sat – 181117
Title
Jonah 6
Body
Biblical truth is a major concern for many conservative Christians. For them the story of Jonah must really have happened, just the way the Bible says, if the Scriptures are to be ‘true’. Ditto for the creation stories, the legends of Israel’s ancestors, the exodus tradition, the ethnic cleansing of Canaan by Joshua, etc, etc. Increasingly we are aware that the Bible’s spiritual value lies not so much in its historicity as in the spiritual wisdom it offers us. We are not seeking ‘facts’ from the past when we read the Bible, but wisdom for today. And ‘today’ is a very different time in human history than the Middle East of 2,000 years ago.
Fri – 181116
Title
Jonah 5
Body
Chapter 5? There are only four chapters in the book of Jonah, but the story does not stop there. This little book has an impressive literary afterlife in Jewish literature, in Christian theology, and in art. A Google search will yield 5.7 million results in less than one second. Here are three brief examples: 1. In the post-biblical tradition Jonah is identified with the widow’s son who Elijah restores to life in Zarephath. After returning from Nineveh, he had taken his mum and gone into exile, and even tried to escape God by death, but God sent Elijah to restore him to life. No escaping the call to be a prophet. Ever. 2. In the “Lives of the prophets” Jonah is remembered for a prophecy that the destruction of the Jerusalem would be near when the stones cry out. Jerusalem replaces Nineveh as the sinful city, while Jesus’ saying that “even the stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40) suddenly gets a prophetic context. 3. In modern Jewish art, Jonah being spat from the whale and returned to dry land is a parable of the Jews returning to the land of Israel after their long exile in Europe. Jonah is not the only biblical text with such an ‘afterlife’. The Scriptures linger in the imagination of our culture long after people stop reading them.
Thr – 181115
Title
Jonah 4
Body
The last chapter is very short but it is the point of the whole book. Jonah descends into a bad mood because God has made him look stupid by relenting on the destruction of the city. He sits on a hill outside the city to watch and wait. It is hot. God makes a little plant grow quickly to give the sad prophet some shade, but then sends a worm to attack the plant so that it dies and Jonah has no shade. Jonah is angry with God. I knew you would do this, and now you have taken away the one bit of comfort I had. “Jonah,” says the Lord. “There are more than 120,000 innocent people in that city, as well as lots of animals. They deserve my compassion.” And not one of them was a believer … yet each of them was loved by God.
Wed – 181114
Title
Jonah 3
Body
Crunch time. Jonah goes to Nineveh as God ‘suggests’ and gets straight to work. He marches into the huge city and proclaims the imminent devastation that God is going to send upon the city. Within forty days. Then his worst fears are realised. This reluctant preacher finds that everyone listens to his sermon. They all take it to heart. They all repent. Everyone last one of them. Even the cattle are dressed in sackcloth and denied food and water. So God changes her mind and decided not to destroy the city. How embarrassing for Jonah. Sometimes it is hard to be gracious …
Tue – 181113
Title
Jonah 2
Body
Have you ever wondered how to pass the time while trapped in the belly of a giant fish? One of my favourite examples of Jonah in art has him seated at a desk working by lamp light on a manuscript, with a massive circular window offering him impressive ocean views (evocative of Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea). In the Bible, the second chapter of this very short book has Jonah singing a psalm before being spat forth onto dry land. Scripture—and especially the Psalms—can be a significant source of wisdom and comfort. What are your favourite biblical passages? Even when you are not inside the belly of a giant fish!
Mon – 181112
Title
Jonah 1
Body
For the next few days we have a series of readings from Jonah in the lectionary for morning prayer, so the Morsels this week will begin offer some reflections on this much loved but little understood story in the Bible. The story is not really about the fish at all, but about a prophet who does not want to help rescue his people’s most threatening enemies from the devastation God plans to visit upon Nineveh. The fish is a distraction, although a very handy flotation aid for the runaway, castaway, don’t wannabe prophet. The call of God on our life can be a tricky business, and especially when it demands that we show compassion to those we fear.
SUN – 181111 – Remembrance Day
Title
Remembrance Day
Body
God of the nations, whose sovereign rule brings justice and peace, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Shed abroad your peace in the hearts of all and banish from them the spirit that makes for war, that all races and peoples may learn to live as members of one family and in obedience to your law, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [A Prayer Book for Australia]
Sat – 181110
Title
For the peace of Jerusalem
Body
The psalm for today’s Eucharist invites us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” (Psalm 122:6–8 NRSV) Peace in Jerusalem will come when there is justice for all its people, and authentic reconciliation between the adherents of the Abrahamic religions. May that day come. Soon.
Fri – 181109
Title
Making heaven happy
Body
The weekday Eucharistic lectionary today has two “lost and found” parables from Jesus: the lost sheep, and the lost coin (Luke 15:1–10). In the first, a compassionate shepherd jeopardises the well-being of 99 sheep to go searching for one lost sheep. In the second, a woman turns her home upside down while searching for a lost coin to complete her set of 10 coins. There is a hint of humour, almost satire, in each of these brief parables. The shepherd not only risks losing more of his sheep as he leaves them unattended while searching for the single lost sheep, but he then throws a party to celebrate the finding of the lost sheep. And we can guess who was probably on the menu! Likewise, the woman invites her friends over to celebrate finding her missing coin. We are not told the cost of the celebration, but we can presume there was not much value left from the recovered coin. The point of these quirky parables is the spontaneous celebration by the shepherd and the householder. Their uncomplicated delight reflects the delight among in heaven when a single person turns back to God. Our repentance makes the angels happy.
Thr – 181108 – Saints & Martyrs of Anglican Communion
Title
The heart of the matter
Body
The default lectionary readings from last Sunday also included Mark’s version of the question about which commandment is the most important for us to observe. See Mark 12:28–34. Jesus replies with what we often call “the two great commandments”: love God with your whole being (heart, soul, mind and strength) and love your neighbour as yourself. Mark develops this in a different direction from Matthew and Luke, and has the questioner affirm the answer given by Jesus: love for others is more important than the rituals and sacrifices of the temple. How simple can it get: compassion is what matters most.
Wed – 181007
Title
Radical Jesus
Body
It’s impossible to be devoted to the Jesus of the Scriptures, while refusing refugees, expelling immigrants, vilifying brown people, worshiping political power, guarding borders, and neglecting the poor—which is exactly the point.
Tue – 181106
Title
The mind of Christ
Body
This morning the ecumenical cycle of weekday readings offers us the passage from Philippians 2:5–11, which is the earliest Christian devotional hymn to have survived from the first followers of Jesus. This a hymn known to the fledgling Christian community in Philippi, and Paul quotes several lines of the hymn to make a point as he appeals for his readers to stop bickering among themselves. “… though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave …” Where we might imagine divinity offers us a chance to exploit our privilege, these early Christians celebrated Jesus as the one who emptied himself and became the servant of all. May that mind be in us … indeed.
Mon – 181105
Title
Show me a coin
Body
Those faith communities which observed All Saints & All Souls this past Sunday will have missed one of the classic moments in the ministry of Jesus. His opponents asked a question about paying tax to the Roman occupying authorities, thinking Jesus was trapped whichever way he answered. Jesus demands to see a coin and then asks whose head is on the coin. Hearing that the coin bore the image of the emperor, he famously replied: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God! Jesus leaves us pondering: What exactly belongs to God? What might the powers that be properly demand of me? Where are my deepest loyalties attached?
SUN – 181104
Title
Stairway from heaven
Body
In popular thought heaven is a destination to which we aspire. The alternative destination is not so desirable. We imagine a stairway to heaven … As often happens, the readings for church today turn our unexamined certainties upside down. Jesus came to proclaim the coming of God’s reign among us. He was not selling tickets for a journey to heaven. How did we so quickly forget that simple reality. The reading from Revelation 21 speaks of the God who comes to dwell among us, transforming our world and us in the process: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; …”
Sat – 181103
Title
True wisdom
Body
So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
—Psalm 90:12
Fri – 181102
Title
All Souls Day
Body
It is an ancient custom to observe the day after All Saints Day as a time of prayer for the faithful departed, who are distinguished from the “Saints” simply by virtue of not having been recognised as worthy of inclusion in the liturgical calendar. Today tends to have a more intimate focus than All Saints Day, as we are more likely to be remembering those we have known, and especially those who have died in the past year. Keeping our loved ones “alive in our memories” is a beautiful and natural spiritual reflex. If nothing—not even death—can separate us from God, it is also true that not even death separates us from those we love.
Thr – 181101
Title
All Saints Day
Body
From one of the hymns we shall be using next Sunday morning: Rejoice in God’s saints, today and all days: A world without saints forgets how to praise. In loving, in living, they prove it is true: Their way of self-giving, Lord, leads us to you. Frederick Pratt Green 1903 – 2000
Posted in Archive, Grafton Cathedral, Morsels | Leave a comment

Morsels 2018 October

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these version of the content are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

Wed – 181031
Title
Halloween
Body
The Eve of All Saints (All Hallows) has taken on a life of its own, disconnected from the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day which will follow over the following two days. The Hallowed Eve as we commence the celebration of All Saints has evolved into Halloween: one of the few times when our society pays any attention to dying. In our death-avoiding culture we rarely pause to think about the countless generations of humanity on whose shoulders we stand. Or our own death. Behind the ghoulish decorations and the fake threats to perform nasty tricks, Halloween invites us to bring in the harvest of our days, while not forgetting those whose lives have ended but whose legacy continues. Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints, but today we might reflect on our own mortality and imagine what our obituary will say about the harvest of our lives.
Tue – 181030
Title
Generosity
Body
The abundance of Spring invites us to be generous, rather than hoarders. This is the polar opposite of a scarcity mentality, which evokes a fear that there may not be enough to go around so we had best hoard what we have. Jesus encouraged his followers to be boldly generous, and to trust the Father to provide what we need. This is a mindset we need to recover in our shared public life, so we move away from the politics of fear and scarcity and embrace the politics of abundance and generosity.
Mon – 181029
Title
Gratitude
Body
It is Springtime in this part of the world, and Jacaranda Festival time in Grafton. One response to the beauty and diversity around us is simply to be grateful. Gratitude disperses the negativity that dominates our news cycle. As I acknowledge and express my delight in the world around me, I find new reserves of energy to make the world an even better place: to build community, to resist prejudice, and to advocate for change.
Sun – 181028
Title
Saint Simon and St Jude
Body
Not the best known of Jesus’ earliest followers.
Always listed at tenth and eleventh. Only Judas Iscariot ranks after them.
Making no mark and leaving no lasting impression.
But they were disciples of Jesus. Among the Twelve.
I am not one of the Twelve, but I am a disciple.
Maybe that is enough.
Sat – 181027
Title
A Celtic psalm
Body
An extract from a Celtic psalm attributed to St Patrick: Our God is the God of all, The God of heaven and earth, Of the sea and of the rivers; The God of the sun and of the moon and of all the stars; The God of the lofty mountains and of the lowly valleys. He has His dwelling around heaven and earth, and sea, and all that in them is. I read this as an inclusive affirmation of the God who is everywhere, and not as an exclusive claim that “our God” is better than “their god”. It may be especially suitable on this day when the 2018 Jacaranda Festival begins. For the full text, see the website link …
Fri – 181026
Title
Quran 5:32
Body
These words from the Quran make interesting this week as we learn more about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi: “That is why We ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity. ˹Although˺ Our messengers already came to them with clear proofs, many of them still transgressed afterwards through the land.” [Translation: Mustafa Khattab, The Clear Quran]
Thr – 181025
Title
Murder most foul
Body
The title of the 1964 Agatha Christie movie featuring Miss Marple has come to mind this past week or so as we have watched the unfolding (or is it the unravelling?) reluctant disclosures about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The death of this journalist was not necessarily more cruel or violent than the deaths suffered by many of his contemporaries. The deeper horror may be the failure of international civil society to respond with similar outrage when hundreds or thousands of people are incarcerated, banned from travel outside their country, excluded from work or study, killed or driven into exile. Every life is precious and each death matters. Our humanity is diminished when we fail to care.
Wed – 181024
Title
Melchizedek
Body
This word can alarm those rostered to read from Genesis 14 or Psalm 110 or Hebrews 5 & 7 during the liturgy. It occurred again this past Sunday. Between the OT legends where this figure is a pagan ruler of Jerusalem to the esoteric traditions in Hebrews where he becomes a supernatural figure with no human parentage, this character had quite a run as a cultural meme in early Judaism. He features in the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as the writings by Philo of Alexandria, so now we know what sense the writer to the Hebrews may have expected his readers to make of his references to this elusive character. As “king of righteousness” (“melek” + “zedek”), he leads the forces of good in the eternal struggle against the powers of evil, led by his appropriately-named opponent, Melchiresha. In modern terms, he is the Luke Skywalker character of post-biblical Judaism. In this week of national reflection and apology, we recommit to the struggle for justice: whether that be victims of institutional child abuse or children in detention or domestic violence survivors. We stand in the light. We oppose the darkness.
Tue – 181023
Title
Time zones
Body
Friends: It seems that the time zone differences between Grafton and Winnipeg caused some issues with the distribution of the last few Morsels, which were composed while I was in Winnipeg. The Morsel that came out this morning (Tue) was obviously intended for yesterday. The Morsel that was planned for this morning will actually go out tomorrow morning. My apologies for any inconvenience this has caused you. Grace and peace. Greg Jenks
Mon – 181022
Title
Light a candle
Body
Today the Australian Prime Minister will deliver an apology to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. Words fail. But they are needed as part of the truth-telling that may someday culminate in justice, compensation and healing. Light a candle for all those touched by this horror.
SUN – 181021
Title
Disruptive faith
Body
“I’m ready for the sort of Christianity that ‘ruins’ my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment that is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and…well… dangerous. Yes, I want to be ‘dangerous’ to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered ‘dangerous’ by our predictable and monotonous culture.” Robert Capon – The Astonished Heart: Reclaiming the good news from the lost-and-found of church history (Eerdmans, 1996)
Sat – 181020
Title
Radical faith
Body
“What happened to radical Christianity that turned the world upside-down? What happened to the category smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous? What happened to the kind of Christians whose hearts were on fire, who had no fear, who spoke the truth no matter what the consequences, who made the world uncomfortable, who were willing to follow Jesus wherever he went? What happened to the kind of Christians who were filled with passion and gratitude, and who every day were unable to get over the grace of God?” Robert Capon – The Astonished Heart: Reclaiming the good news from the lost-and-found of church history (Eerdmans, 1996)
Fri – 181019
Title
Astonishment
Body
“The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life-enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wide-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into ‘nice people’. If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested.” Robert Capon – The Astonished Heart: Reclaiming the good news from the lost-and-found of church history (Eerdmans, 1996)
Thr – 181018
Title
St Luke
Body
Today we celebrate the legacy of Luke. This is the name we give to the anonymous author of the Gospel of Luke and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. All we really know about this person is what we can glean by reading between the lines of these two documents which represent about one-quarter of the New Testament. Luke preserves the past and prepares his readers for the future. For him that future meant coming to terms with Rome, embracing a more inclusive expression of the Jesus movement, and finding ways to be faithful in a world that did not share our values. Rome has fallen but the task remains much the same.
Wed – 181017
Title
Make Poverty History
Body
Remember that slogan from a few years back? On this international day for the eradication of poverty it is timely to reflect on how poverty correlates with infant mortality, poor maternal health outcomes, disease and lack of education. Poverty is a major theme in the Bible, but rarely gets a mention in the success-oriented expressions of Christianity that are proving so very popular these days. Social justice is not an optional extra for the followers of Jesus. As we lay aside some of our own privilege, we also seek to empower others to escape poverty and live the abundant lives God wishes for all of us.
Tue – 181016
Title
The last shall be first
Body
Last Sunday’s serve of Jesus wisdom from the Gospel of Mark concluded with this zinger: “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” [Mark 10:31] God upturns our expectations. That feels good when we consider ourselves outsiders, but has a different feel when we realise how much we are really insiders. Dare we follow this God who turns our expectations upside down?
Mon – 181015
Title
Camels and needles
Body
In all three Synoptic Gospels and possibly in the oral tradition known to Mark, the story of the rich young ruler is always followed by this saying of Jesus: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” [Mark 10:25] Of course we think that does not apply to us since we are not rich. Think again. Thread the camel through the needle …
SUN – 181014
Title
Privilege and discipleship
Body
Today’s Gospel is the familiar story of the “rich young ruler”. In Mark’s version he is simply rich: neither “young” (that is Matthew’s touch) nor a “ruler” (that comes from Luke). We have blended all three versions into our familiar triply-advantaged individual. This guy is dripping with privilege: wealthy, powerful (in Luke) and young (in Matthew). He has it all. But he wants something more, or maybe something else. Jesus cuts him no slack: surrender your privilege. He walks away from life …
Sat – 181013
Title
A circle of blessing
Body
From our blessing of the animals at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton last Sunday:
All dogs and dingoes, large and small: Praise the Lord! All rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs: Praise the Lord! All goldfish, guppies and swimming creatures: Praise the Lord! All kookaburras, budgies and singing birds: Praise the Lord! All wombats, koalas and wallabies: Praise the Lord! All horses, cows and sheep: Praise the Lord! All lizards, skinks and crawling creatures: Praise the Lord! Every animal in the sky, the sea and the forest: Praise the Lord!
Fri – 181012
Title
This we believe
Body
An affirmation of faith used in the liturgy at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton last Sunday:
God creates all things, renews all things and celebrates all things. This we believe. Earth is a sanctuary, a sacred planet filled with God’s presence, a home for us to share with our kin. This we believe. God became flesh and blood, a piece of Earth, a human being called Jesus Christ, who lived and breathed and spoke among us, suffered and died on a cross for all human beings and for all creation. This we believe. The risen Jesus is the Christ at the centre of creation, reconciling all things to God, renewing all creation and filling the cosmos. This we believe. The Holy Spirit renews life in creation, groans in empathy with a suffering creation and waits with us for the rebirth of creation. This we believe. We believe that with Christ we will rise and with Christ we will celebrate a new creation.
Thr – 181011
Title
Mother Earth, Our Mother Birthing
Body
The offertory hymn from last Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton:
Mother Earth, our mother birthing Ev’ry creature from the ground. Jesus too was flesh and breathing, Kin to all that’s green and brown. Celebrate with all creation: God has joined the web of life. Sister Air, our sister lifting Ev’ry creature born with wing; Jesus shared the breath of forests, Breath that makes our spirits sing. Celebrate with all creation: God has joined the web of life. Brother Water, brother pulsing Deep through ev’ry vein and sea, Jesus drank the very raindrops For our wine and in our tea. Celebrate with all creation: God has joined the web of life. Father Fire, our father burning With the sacred urge to live. Jesus’ death completes the cycle, Bringing life beyond the grave. Celebrate with all creation: God has joined the web of life.
Words: © Norman Habel 1999
Wed – 181010
Title
Creatures around the throne
Body
Animals around the throne: In this vision of the future, it is not only angels that praise Christ on the throne, but also the living creatures of Earth and sky. They are an integral part of our hope and our future.
So many popular version of Christianity are myopic: sin dominates the airwaves, and no creatures but us matter to God. The visions of Revelation offer a more holistic view of the future:
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped. [Revelation 5:11–14]
Tue – 181009
Title
All creatures great and small
Body
Continuing this week’s focus on our shared relationships with other life forms on this shared planet, here is the Prayer of the Day from our Sunday liturgy at the Cathedral:
God, our Creator, help us to love all creatures as kin, all animals as partners on Earth, all birds as messengers of praise, all minute beings as expressions of your mysterious design and all frogs as voices of hope. Amen.
Mon – 181008
Title
Thanksgiving and confession
Body
From yesterday’s liturgy for the Blessing of the Animals at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton: Thanksgiving and Confession Lord, for all the animals in the whole wide world, We thank you, God! Lord, for all the fun and friendship we have with animals, We thank you, God! Lord, for all the times we have hurt or neglected animals, We are sorry. Lord, for all the times we have used poisons that have killed animals, We are sorry. Lord, for all the times we have destroyed the homes of animals in the forests, oceans or fields, We are sorry. Absolution I speak for Christ. For all your sins against the creatures of Earth, I forgive you and I call upon you to honour and protect all animals. Yes, I speak for Christ. May the animals of Earth be your companions in life and lead you to celebrate your place in the circle of life. Amen! Amen Shalom! Shalom!
SUN 181007 – Blessing of the Animals
Title
Web of life
Body
Modern science has revealed how intimately we are connected with other life forms through our shared DNA, but the ancient Hebrew creation myths included a beautiful story as humans, animals and birds are made from the same earth:
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the Earthling should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the Earthling to see what he would call them; and whatever the Earthling called every living creature, that was its name. The Earthling gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field … [Genesis 2:18–20]
Companion animals indeed!
Sat – 181006 – Creation Prayers
Title
Pilgrimage Blessing
Body
A creation-centred prayer on this ancient day of Sabbath rest: Dear pilgrim, As you go into the wilderness of the land and of your heart— May you experience the ever-flowing grace of God’s presence! May you be immersed so fully in God’s love that you learn to let go and swim! May you engage deeply and radically with the natural world, as steward, co-creator, and friend! May you drink anew from the divine source, the stream of living water! And may you be transformed, may the stagnant waters of your spirit begin to flow, and may all which is dead in you rise again! God is here. The river awaits. Let the adventure begin. Amen.
SOURCE: Lisa Hershey Kutolowski, “The River of Life Prayer Book” for the Connecticut River Pilgrimage 2017. See web link to Kairos Earth for more resources like this.
FRI – 181005 – World Teachers Day
Title
Teachers who have shaped us
Body
October 5 is observed as World Teachers Day. This seems like an invitation to be grateful for those people who have been our teachers. Some of our teachers were employed in educational institutions. And some of those people have changed our lives. Other teachers were people in our intimate circle. They nurtured us and modelled healthy living. Not just the vegetables and the exercise, but care for others and respect for our own true selves. Some of our teachers seemed like opponents at first. But on reflection we learned a great deal from our encounters with them. Some of our teachers are officially our students, or our children, or both. To Sir (and Miss), with love. Thank you.
THR – 181004 – St Francis
Title
Make me a channel of your peace
Body
Today we celebrate the legacy of Francis (1182–1226 CE), one of the most widely loved of the Western saints. Although not composed by Francis, for a great many people the following prayer captures the essence of Franciscan spirituality: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offence, let me bring pardon. Where there is discord, let me bring union. Where there is error, let me bring truth. Where there is doubt, let me bring faith. Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, let me bring your light. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy. O Master, let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that one receives, it is in self-forgetting that one finds, it is in pardoning that one is pardoned, it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
WED – 181003 – Beatitude 8
Title
Beatitude 8
Body
The last in this series of Beatitudes from Matthew 5 takes us to place that most of us find unfamiliar and unwelcome: persecution. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 NRSV) In liberal Western societies, freedom of religion is so well established that persecution seems all but impossible to imagine. Recent campaigns for religious freedom are more about freedom for religious people to discriminate than any genuine threat to freedom of belief, freedom of worship, freedom of practise or even freedom to promote one’s religion. The beatitude speaks of persecution for the sake of righteousness: not religion, but right living. While Western Christians chafe at our increasingly irrelevance in a hedonistic culture, there are fellow believers in many parts of the world who suffer real hardship because of their faith and the justice which their faith calls them to uphold. Can it be that Jesus was right in saying they are more blessed than we?
TUE – 181002
Title
Non-violent justice
Body
On this International Day of Non-Violence—as we mark the birthday of Mahatma Ghandi— this extract from John Dominic Crossan may be a good stimulus for reflection: “To obtain and possess the kingdoms of the world, with their power and glory, by violent injustice is to worship Satan. To obtain and possess the kingdom, the power, and the glory by nonviolent justice is to worship God.” ― John Dominic Crossan, The Greatest Prayer: A Revolutionary Manifesto and Hymn of Hope
MON – 181001
Title
A cup of water
Body
We sometimes aspire to heroic achievements. Maybe it is all the little acts of kindness and goodness that matter more than the grand gestures? In yesterday’s Gospel reading, we hear these words on the lips of Jesus: “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” (Mark 9:41)
Posted in Archive, Grafton Cathedral, Morsels | Leave a comment

Morsels 2018 September

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these version of the content are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

 

SUN – 180930
Title
Draw the circle wide
Body
There is a temptation in life to draw the circle small and close. Perhaps it is a leftover from our evolutionary past? We certainly see traces of it in the recent trends towards isolationism and radical nationalism in so many societies. Xenophobia prefers small circles with thick boundaries. In today’s Gospel Jesus stares down the fearful concern of his disciples for their exclusive rights as the authorised brokers—in their minds at least—of the Jesus program. Jesus sketches a more expansive attitude towards others: “Do not stop them … whoever is not against us is for us …” (Mark 9:39–40). As a Cathedral we draw the circle wide. We are an inclusive community. We welcome people from very diverse religious and personal backgrounds.
SAT – 180929 – St Michael & All Angels
Title
St Michael and All Angel
Body
While the nation is transfixed with sporting competitions this weekend, the Christian churches are celebrating ancient mythic tradition stretching back in time and known to us in many different versions. Central to many of these memes is a rider on a white horse, engaged in combat with a dragon, so that the maiden can be rescued, a city saved, or a world redeemed. Sometimes the rider on the white horse is St George, other times Michael the Archangel, or even Jesus. Fact and history are not stakeholders in this ancient dream language. Rather our fears (the dragon) are subdued and destroyed by the victorious hero; a character with many names but always on a white horse. This is archetypal myth and it can be very powerful. When struggling with some persistent spiritual problem, it can help to invoke the assistance of the hero on the white horse. As a Christian, I invoke Jesus. His job description reads: “Saviour.” Who better to ask to come to my aid? Who is your heroic archetype?
FRI – 180928 – National Police Memorial Service
Title
National Police Remembrance Day
Body
At Christ Church Cathedral this morning we will welcome members of the local Police service, along with family and colleagues from other essential services, for the 2018 Police National Memorial Service. Similar services will be held in communities across the state and around the nation. We give thanks for the sense of service that draws people into the Police. We admire their dedication and their courage. We pray for their physical, emotional, spiritual and moral safety as they put themselves at risk for our safety. We pray for those injured in the course of their work, and for the families of officers who lose their lives while seeking to protect ours.
THR – 180927 – Vincent de Paul
Title
St Vincent de Paul
Body
Vincent de Paul died on this day in 1660, but his legacy continues and his name has become synonymous with compassion for the poor and advocacy for social justice to improve their circumstances. One of many gems from his life of compassion: If God is the center of your life, no words are necessary. Your mere presence will touch hearts. —Vincent de Paul
WED – 180926 – Psalm 23 (1)
Title
Thanksgiving
Body
A friend of mine in the USA wrote the following lines as part of a daily reflection that came through yesterday: What a gift life is. How glad I am To be here For a little while. Simple words, but deep truth. Thanks, Jane Wolfe. And thanks God for the gift of friends like Jane.
TUE – 180925 – journeys to the edge
Title
Reaching for the edges
Body
Websites that collect “on this day” information tell us that on 25 September 1492 the crew on board the Pinta, one of the ships with Christopher Columbus thought they had spotted land. They were wrong, but soon enough they did indeed find the Americas; and changed the world. Exactly 500 years later the Mars Observer mission blasted off on this day. Although that mission failed when communications with the space vehicle were lost as it approached Mars in August 1993, subsequent expeditions to Mars have offered fascinating insights into this planet. Humans seem insatiably curious about what lies over the horizon. Each morning we encounter a new horizon. Let’s engage the new day with curiosity and hope. I wonder what God has to show us today?
MON – 180924 – Blessed the peacemakers
Title
Beatitude 7
Body
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” says Jesus. “For they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Peacemakers are not always celebrated and affirmed, and especially not by those whose violence they are seeking to diminish and even end. Not by those who make huge profits from the sale of weapons and the provision of logistic support to the war machine. Last Friday we celebrated International Peace Day, but our governments invest in “security” (violence and coercive power) rather than peacemaking and reconciliation. Jesus seems a lonely voice in a world gone mad, but he speaks a truth we need to hear.
SUN – 180923
Title
Capernaum’s child
Body
Children were not highly regarded in the ancient world. Most of them died before reaching adulthood in any case, and they rarely feature in the stories about Jesus. Yet in today’s Gospel Jesus takes a child and tells his followers to stop obsessing about themselves and to focus on the child. It is always about the child, about the ‘little ones’ … Sometimes the child is indeed an infant or a toddler. Sometimes the child is a school student. Sometimes the child is a vulnerable adult, unemployed perhaps, or homeless. Sometimes the child is a frail older person. But the mission of God is always about the little ones, youth who are at risk, older folks who are being overlooked.
SAT – 180922 – Shabbat prayer
Title
A Shabbat prayer
Body
Bless, O Lord, this food we are about to eat; and we pray you, O God, that it may be good for our body and soul; and, if there is any poor creature hungry or thirsting walking the road, may God send them in to us so that we can share the food with them, just as Christ shares his gifts with all of us. Amen. Celtic Daily Prayer, p. 299
FRI – 180921 – St Matthew
Title
Matthew
Body
Today we celebrate “Saint Matthew”: one of the twelve core followers (disciples) of Jesus and the figure to whom tradition attributes the first of the Gospels in the New Testament. We know little of this character as he seems never to play a role in the stories people later told about Jesus; apart from being called to leave his toll-booth and follow Jesus. In Mark and Luke this character is not even called Matthew, but Levi, although they do have a Matthew among the Twelve. This little-known apostle lent his name (posthumously) to a revision of Mark’s Gospel that seems to have circulated in NW Syria just after 100 CE, in the Christian communities around the Antioch region. The person who edited and enlarged Mark’s account to create the Gospel according to Matthew has greatly enriched the subsequent legacy of the Christian Church, while also reinforcing the Jewish character of our roots. If European Christians had paid more attention to ‘Matthew’ there could never have been the centuries of anti-Semitic violence culminating in the Holocaust during the Nazi era. The Matthean gospel encouraged Jews to welcome Gentiles, and Gentiles to value Jews at a time when suspicion between the two groups was increasing. If only we had listened better. How much evil could have been avoided. The world could have been a better place for millions of people.
THR – 180920 – Rohr, Christianity as lifestyle
Title
Christianity as lifestyle
Body
Christianity is a lifestyle – a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established “religion” (and all that goes with that) and avoided the lifestyle change itself. One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history, and still believe that Jesus is one’s “personal Lord and Savior” . . . The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great. — Richard Rohr
WED – 180919 – Disciples of Jesus
Title
Disciples of Jesus
Body
How does someone follow a person like Jesus? The answer may surprise. Jesus does not ask people to sign up to a creed. Jesus does not ask them to go through some ritual or make a pilgrimage. Jesus does not ask them to hand over money for the church to use. All of those things the church has done, but none of those things were done by Jesus. He simply said: Come and follow me; do what I am doing, go where I am going. So, the secret is how we choose to spend our lives. Not looking after ourselves, but seeking to make the world a better place, a place more like God wants it to be. Those of us who come to the Table of Jesus seek food for the same journey. Make us like you, Jesus!
TUE – 180918 Jesus Movement (action steps)
Title
Jesus Movement (Simple steps)
Body
After sketching his vision for the church as a local branch of the Jesus Movement, Bishop Michael Curry offers these simple tips to help us get active in God’s project of love, liberation and life: TRY THIS: (1) Begin your day by asking: How could my words, actions and heart reflect the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus? Ask God to help you, especially at decision points. (2) At day’s end, with genuine curiosity and zero judgment, ask: When did I see myself or others being loving, liberating or life-giving today? Where do I wish I’d seen or practiced Jesus’ Way?
MON -180917 Jesus Movement (more)
Title
Jesus Movement (more)
Body
Here is a further excerpt from Bishop Michael Curry on what it means to be a participant in the Jesus movement: “Jesus launched this movement when he welcomed the first disciples to follow his loving, liberating, life-giving Way. Today, we participate in his movement with our whole lives: our prayer, worship, teaching, preaching, gathering, healing, action, family, work, play and rest. In all things, we seek to be loving, liberating and life-giving—just like the God who formed all things in love; liberates us all from prisons of mind, body and spirit; and gives life so we can participate in the resurrection and healing of God’s world.” People who live like this transform the world …
SUN – 180916
Title
The Jesus Movement
Body
In the Gospel today Jesus asks his disciples how they understand his mission. In the Dean’s Forum at 10.30am we will be exploring what it means to be disciples of Jesus. Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA, has been speaking about discipleship as participating in the Jesus movement. You may remember him as the preacher at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. We will consider several of his comments over the next few days, beginning with this statement: “The Jesus Movement is the ongoing community of people who center their lives on Jesus and following him into loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, each other and creation. Together, we follow Jesus as we love God with our whole heart, soul and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40), and restore each other and all of creation to unity with God in Christ (BCP, p. 855).” For more of Michael Curry in his own words click on the link below.
SAT – 180915
Title
Bless this house
Body
Bless this house and those within. Bless our giving and receiving. Bless our words and conversation. Bless our hands and recreation. Bless our sowing and our growing. Bless our coming and our going. Bless all who enter and depart. Bless this house, your peace impart.
FRI – 180914 – Holy Cross
Title
Holy Cross Day
Body
Holy Cross Day marks the dedication on this day in 335 of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, better known to most people in the West as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This impressive complex of buildings was built by the Emperor Constantine (c. 285-337) on the sites of the crucifixion and Jesus’ tomb. It was destroyed in 1009 on the orders of the Fatimid Caliph, Al-Hakim, and only partly rebuilt—on a much-reduced scale—by the Byzantine Emperor under an agreement with Al-Hakim’s son. Despite its present state, the Church of the Resurrection is the holiest site in Christianity and draws pilgrims from around the world. On this day we pray for the witness of that ancient church and for the Arab Christians whose existence in Palestine and throughout the Middle East is more at risk now than at any time in the past 2,000 years.
THR – 180913 –
Title
God of freedom, God of justice
Body
Our final hymn at Grafton Cathedral always has a focus on mission: what God is calling us to do as our part in God’s own mission within our world. Last Sunday our mission hymn was by Shirley Erena Murray and it included these words as its second verse: Rid the earth of torture’s terror, God whose hands were nailed to the wood; hear the cries of pain and protest, God who shed the tears and blood; move in us the power of pity, restless for the common good. This hymn was written in 1980 for Amnesty International’s Campaign Against Torture when Shirley Murray could find nothing relevant to sing at a service for prisoners of conscience. How sad that the churches’ musical repertoire had nothing relevant to such an event. How blessed are we that Shirley Murray crafted these challenging lyrics.
WED – 180912 – Beatitude 6: Pure in heart
Title
Beatitude 6
Body
In Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes, which he uses to open the Sermon on the Mount that he crafted by editing some of the remembered teachings of Jesus, the fifth blessing is for those who are pure in heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8 NRSV) For most of us most of the time, this is an aspiration rather than a description. We seem to have mixed motives, divided loyalties, and complex lives. Yet we can also recognise that in those precious moments when we have singleness of focus there is great blessing: perhaps we even glimpse God at such times.
TUE – 180911 – 9/11
Title
9/11
Body
Many of us have vivid memories of first hearing about the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on this day in 2001. The attack also hit the Pentagon and there was a failed attempt to use United Airlines flight 93 in an additional strike. How much the world changed that day. Fear seems so much stronger in our world now. Yet we also believe that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). As we focus on our capacities for authentic love, fear loses its grip on our lives and our world.
MON – 180910 – LP: Deliver us from evil
Title
Deliver us from evil
Body
In Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer the request to be saved from the time of trial is followed by, “and deliver us from evil”. This line is not in Luke’s version, which seems to preserve a more primitive form of the prayer, but it is found in the Didache’s version, which is contemporary with Matthew. Both date to around 100 CE. What are the evils from which we seek to be delivered this week? What do we fear most? Can we offer it to God, not just for deliverance—but also for redemption and transformation?
SUN – 180909 – Today’s Gospel
Title
The feisty mother
Body
Today’s Gospel describes a foreign woman demanding that Jesus expand his concept of God’s love to include her sick daughter. It is an interesting story on so many levels as the outsider offers the insider a master class in compassion. The special prayer for our Eucharist today reflects the courage of this feisty mother: O God, whose word is life, and whose delight is to answer our cry: give us faith like that of the woman who refused to remain an outsider, so that we too may have the wit to argue and demand that our children be made whole, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
SAT – 180908 – City of God
Title
City of God
Body
Daniel L. Schutte is an American songwriter whose work has enriched our repertoire of sacred music. One of his classic pieces is the song, “City of God”, whose refrain is a call to action: Let us build the city of God. May our tears be turned into dancing! For the Lord, our light and our love, has turned the night into day! Listen to the whole song by clicking on the web link.
FRI – 180907 – Hymn
Title
Pray not for Arab or Jew
Body
This prayer written by a Palestinian Christian invites us to see people, and not enemies: Pray not for Arab or Jew, for Palestinian or Israeli, but pray rather for ourselves, that we may not divide them in our prayers, but keep them both together in our hearts.
THR – 180806 Beatitude 5 – The merciful
Title
Beatitude 5
Body
In Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes, the fifth blessing is for the merciful: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 NRSV) It is a sad index of the dynamics of modern life that this seems like a concept from another world. Our leaders aspire to be popular, powerful, strategic, successful, clever, tough, and strong. It seems that the focus groups have not alerted their minders to the value of compassion and mercy. What is a merciful person? For starters, this is someone who does not insist on their rights to the extent of causing harm to someone else. Even if they could. Even if they have the right to do so. This is not just a political concept. It also applies in our own intimate relationships and at the grassroots of our local communities.
WED – 180905
Title
Save us from the time of trial
Body
In the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer, the words “lead us not into temptation” were sometimes a cause of confusion. As the comic level, some young London ears heard this as “Lead us not into Thames Station”. On a more serious level, it seemed to suggest that God would entice us into some kind of trap, like a divine sting operation. Not the gospel in any sense. The modern version of this ancient prayer helpfully clarifies what this petition is about: Save us from the tough times! Our farmers know what that means, and so do journalists jailed by authoritarian regimes. This is a prayer for battlers: Be with us in the bad days. Better still, keep the bad days away from us!
TUE – 180904
Title
And the point is …
Body
To be a solitary and self-sufficient figure—even if we could do that, which mostly we cannot—is to be lonely and pointless. To survive at all costs, might mean that we die without any meaning to our existence at all. The point of being alive is not to survive, but to serve. This was a theme to which Jesus and his first followers returned time and again. For more, see the sermon from last Sunday by clicking on the web link.
MON – 180903
Title
The Martyrs of PNG
Body
Yesterday in church we commemorated the martyrs of Papua New Guinea. These 333 Christian non-combatants were killed by Japanese forces in PNG in 1942/43. They included Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists and United Church people, both indigenous and expatriates. The Anglican missionaries had been told by their Bishop to remain with their people and not accept offers of evacuation by the Australian government. The others made similar choices. Their murders constituted one small atrocity among all the evils of the war, but their courage inspired decades of generosity and service. May we never forget them and may our lives always be spent for the sake of others.
SUN – 180902
Title
Fathers’ Day
Body
From today’s intercessions at the Eucharist: We pray today for the health and wellbeing of families across this city and valley. Grant wisdom and strength to every man who is a father to someone else: fathers and grandfathers, husbands and friends, brothers and uncles.
SAT – 180901
Title
Caim Prayer
Body
The ‘caim’ (circling) prayer involves our bodies in the act of praying. It can be especially helpful when words get in the way or it seems impossible to focus. Draw a circle around yourself using the right index finger as you offer this prayer, or imagine a circle wrapping around those for whom you seek God’s blessing. Here is one example of a caim prayer, which you can adapt as needed: Circle (name), Lord. Keep (comfort) near and (discouragement) afar. Keep (peace) within) and (turmoil) without. Amen. SOURCE: Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Community, 297
Posted in Archive, Grafton Cathedral, Morsels | Leave a comment

Morsels 2018 August

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these version of the content are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

 

FRI – 180831
Title
The God beyond words
Body
The following remark by Professor Kevin Hart of Virginia University, made during a recent podcast in the “On the Way” series from St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane, caught my attention: “When we stop trying to talk about God and we talk with God, God is there and we can talk with God. This paradox, it seems to me, is at the heart of the Christian life—and not just the Christian life, but the religious life—and is something we can never overcome.” Expertise is not required, just a willingness to open ourselves to the God beyond words. For the podcast, see the web link. For the context of this quote, go to 19 minutes and 30 seconds into the audio.
THR – 180930
Title
One bread one body one humanity
Body
At Grafton Cathedral last Sunday morning the opening hymn was based on the earliest extant Eucharistic liturgy. It comes from an ancient Christian text known as the Didache, which was composed around 100 CE. The final verse paraphrased a couple of lines from the Didache which are now used in contemporary liturgies across many mainline church families: “As this broken bread was once many grains, which have been gathered together and made one bread: so may your Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.” This is a vision of the church as gathered humanity: diverse and multicultural, yet one in Christ. At a time of rising nationalism and deepening trade wars, maybe such a vision is a gift that is both timely and of immense worth?
WED – 180829
Title
Hungry and thirsty for justice (Beatitude 4)
Body
Beatitude #4 seems to be a good sequel to yesterday’s morsel on forgiveness of real world debts being a key to our own forgiveness by God. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NRSV) Am I hungry for justice? Am I thirty to see people treated right? Am I a student of Jesus?
TUE – 180828
Title
Forgive as we forgive (Part Two)
Body
As we saw yesterday, the Lord’s Prayer turns out to have some radical ideas wrapped up inside those familiar words. Here is our key line again, from Luke’s version of the prayer: “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” The second things to note from this petition is what we promise to forgive. When we say this prayer we undertake to forgive the real debts that people owe us, not just some emotional or spiritual pain they have caused us. Rural debt was crippling ordinary people in the time of Jesus and he links forgiveness of sins to a restructure of the economics of the day. Dare we entertain the idea that forgiveness of our own sins cannot be claimed until and unless we address the structural evils that grind people into poverty and destroy their lives? Who still wants to say this prayer now?
MON – 180827
Title
Forgive as we forgive (Part One)
Body
The familiar Lord’s Prayer turns out to have some radical ideas. In a week when mutual forgiveness might be more needed than usual in our national affairs, let’s consider this line from the Our Father: “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” I am deliberately using the form of this line from Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer as it is less religious than the version in Matthew and therefore probably closer to what Jesus would have said. There are two things to note in this, but we shall deal with just the first of them today: Forgiveness of our sins is not based on Jesus dying on the cross, but on our willingness to forgive others. Jesus teaches us to ask God—to dare God maybe—to treat us the way we treat others. Are we game to say that to God?
SUN – 180826 (Refugee Sunday)
Title
Refugee Sunday 2018
Body
God bless our eyes so that we will recognise injustices. God bless our ears so that we will hear the cry of the stranger. God bless our mouths so that we will speak words of welcome to newcomers. God bless our shoulders so we will be able to bear the weight of struggling for justice. God bless our hands so that we can work together with all people to establish peace. Amen. SOURCE: Uniting Justice Australia and numerous websites
SAT – 180825
Title
Lives that are holy and hearts that are true
Body
“Gather us in” is one of the most popular of the many contemporary worship songs composed by American Lutheran songwriter, Marty Haugen. The words of verse three have always resonated with me: “Here we will take the wine and the water, here we will take the bread of new birth, Here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth. Give us to drink the wine of compassion, give us to eat the bread that is you; Nourish us well, and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.” Ah to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true. That might even change the world!
FRI -180824 – St Bartholomew
Title
Seeking wisdom first
Body
The Old Testament reading from last Sunday now seems very timely in light of the political chaos in Canberra. After Solomon succeeded his father (David) as king over Israel he has a dream in which God invites him to ask for anything he would like to have as begins his reign (see 1 Kings 3:5). Solomon asks for wisdom to govern well. The storyteller continues: “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life …” (1Kings 3:10–13 NRSV) Do we have any Solomons in Canberra, or in Washington, or in Jerusalem …
THR – 180823
Title
A Celtic prayer for the morning
Body
I will kindle my fire this morning in the presence of the holy angels of heaven; Without malice, without jealousy, without envy, without fear; without terror of anyone under the sun, but the Holy Son of God to shield me. God, kindle thou in my heart within a flame of love to my neighbour, to my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all; To the brave, to the coward, to the man in the street, O Son of the loveliest Mary, from the lowliest thing that lives to the Name that is highest of all. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen!
WED – 180822
Title
Beatitude 3
Body
The third beatitude found in Matthew 5:5 is not paralleled in any other early Christian text: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Meekness is not a value we admire much these days, yet it lies close to the heart of the spiritual wisdom that Jesus embodied. Meekness was almost his defining attribute. We might get a handle on meekness by considering its opposite: impatient, assertive, overbearing. Spiritual wisdom is to cultivate patience, to moderate our assertiveness, and to cultivate the best interests of others. Blessed indeed are the meek. The future belongs to such people.
TUE – 180821
Title
Tomorrow’s bread today
Body
The line in the Lord’s Prayer asking for the bread we need day by day, has a hidden surprise tucked inside. All three of the surviving ancient versions in Matthew, Luke and the Didache use a rare Greek word: epiousion. This word is so rare that it seems to have been created by whoever first translated the Lord’s Prayer from Aramaic into Greek. This word seems to have been derived from a more common Greek word (epiousei), which means “the next day” or simply “tomorrow”. So this line in the Lord’s Prayer is not simply asking for the bread we need each day, but at a deeper level is a request to experience each day the bread of tomorrow, the bread of God’s kingdom. This is how the line was translated in the Alternative Services Book published by the Church of England in 1980: “Give us today the bread of tomorrow …” That was too radical for most people in church, so Anglican prayer books reverted to the more familiar words. May we experience the blessings of the future right now, day by day, in our own life. Epiousion!
MON – 1801820
Title
Do not be daunted
Body
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. [While often attributed to the Talmud, this is actually a paraphrase of Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s interpretive translation of Rabbi Tarfon’s work on the Pirke Avot 2 which is a commentary on Micah 6:8. See Rami Shapiro, “Wisdom of the Jewish Sages: A modern reading of Pirke Avot,” 41.]
SUN – 180819 –
Title
Holy Sophia, Lady Wisdom
Body
The alternative first reading in today’s lectionary depicts Lady Wisdom setting a table and inviting people to come to her feast: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Proverbs 9:5–6 NRSV) Each Sunday as Christians gather around the Table of Jesus we hear that invitation renewed: Come and eat; taste and see that the Lord is good.
SAT – 180818 –
Title
Tikkun olam
Body
These two Hebrew words sum up a very important principle for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The phrase means: “repairing the world”. This challenges those expressions of religion that focus on personal salvation, the forgiveness of sins or winning access to the afterlife. Tikkun olam invites us to hear the divine call to join with God in redeeming and repairing the world. It reflects the ancient wisdom of Micah: “… what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 NRSV)
FRI – 180817 –
Title
Kingdom come
Body
The reign of God was at the very centre of Jesus’ mission and ministry. The Greek is often translated as “kingdom of God” but that is too static a concept. What Jesus intended was more like “reign of God” or “rule of God”; even “God’s empire”! According to Jesus, this dynamic sacred presence was coming and yet it was already present: among us, within us and between us. Jesus taught people to pray: “your kingdom come …” What a dangerous thing to do. What an exciting thing to seek: setting God loose in our lives and in our world. Everything will be different …
THR – 180816 –
Title
What we sing we believe
Body
The songs of God’s people are a treasure trove of spiritual wisdom.
About once a week our daily morsel will be one of the songs of faith; mostly new but occasionally ancient. Here is one of my favourite modern songs, perhaps because I especially like the portrayal of Jesus as the one who upsets religion.
Praise with Joy the World’s Creator
Praise with joy the world’s Creator, God of justice, love, and peace,
Source and end of human knowledge, force of greatness without cease. Celebrate the Maker’s glory—pow’r to rescue and release.
Praise the Son who feeds the hungry, frees the captive, finds the lost, Heals the sick, upsets religion, fearless both of fate and cost.
Celebrate Christ’s constant presence—Friend and Stranger, Guest and Host.
Praise the Spirit sent among us, liberating truth from pride,
Forging bonds where race or gender, age or nation dare divide. Celebrate the Spirit’s treasure—foolishness none dare deride.
Praise the Maker, Son, and Spirit, one God in community,
Calling Christians to embody oneness and diversity.
Thus the world shall yet believe, when shown Christ’s vibrant unity.
[John L. Bell, b. 1949]
WED – 180815 – Mary, mother of the Lord
Title
Mary, mother of the Lord
Body
Today is one of several holy days dedicated to the mother of Jesus who, until the restoration of Mary Magdalene to the Anglican calendar in 1928, was the only woman honoured with a “red letter” festival in Western Christianity. The cult of Mary flourished in medieval Europe and she is similarly venerated in the Eastern Churches. In both East and West the mother of Jesus is an ambivalent figure in a theological world dominated by patriarchal gods and male saints. The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary into heaven following her death is the youngest dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, only having been defined as recently as 1 November 1950. The historical Mary of Nazareth was a rather different character than the pious traditions that have clustered around her legacy. Mary was a peasant woman in a pioneer Jewish village with not much more than a dozen families. Having given birth to five sons and at least two daughters (Mark 6:3), she was doubtless a feisty woman who knew how to run the household with limited resources. As we peel away the devotional tinsel on this feast of Mary, we give thanks for the women in our lives: mothers and grandmothers, sisters and aunts, wives and daughters. Let’s honour the mother of Jesus by making our cities and our families safe places for women and girls, and eradicating the scourge of domestic violence.
TUE – 180814 – Martyrs of the 20C
Title
Forge meaning, build identity
Body
The TED talk by Andrew Solomon seems like a good segue from yesterday’s morsel on the second beatitude: Blessed are they who mourn. Solomon says: “we don’t seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences.” The comments of a friend who first alerted me to this TED talk sum it up: “Forging meaning is personal. Building identity is communal and enables us to change the world.” If you have 20 minutes to invest in serious personal growth, watch the TED talk by clicking on the link below.
MON – 180813 – Jeremy Taylor, d. 1667
Title
Beatitude 2
Body
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” [Matthew 5:4] The second Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount strikes a dissonant chord. Happy (or blessed = to be congratulated) are those who are mourning some loss that has caused them to feel bereft. Really? Since when? How can such loss be—in any sense—a blessing, a source of deep happiness? Compensation in some afterlife is not going to make me feel blessed here as my life falls apart. How do we rescue meaning from tragedy, hope from despair, life from death? Can it be that in our moments of deep loss God is—or at least seems—closer? When something that we treasure is taken from us, one thing remains: God. Was God absent when Jesus hung on the cross? Some theologians say so. But I think not. Perhaps in his own extremity—as the loss of his own life engulfed him—Jesus found that God was not absent. The victim found deep comfort at the epicentre of his own loss. Sensing the divine presence even in our deepest loss might perhaps be the comfort that allows us to claim a blessing even in the midst of trauma. May it be so.
SUN – 180812 – Pentecost 12B
Title
The future begins today
Body
Sunday. This is the first day of the week, even if our modern calendars tend to group Saturday and Sunday together as the “weekend” for convenience. It is still known to some people as “the Lord’s Day”. In ancient Jewish thinking the “day of the Lord” was a day when God and humanity met. It would never be a casual encounter. When we meet with God we come away changed. When God comes calling, it is not without consequences. It would be a day of judgment or a day of blessing. Never a dull moment, we might say. Like Jacob we might walk away from the encounter with a limp, carrying a wound that reminds us of the encounter with deep life itself. Just as scratches on an old family dining table bear witness to the many meals shared around its surface. Like Moses, we might walk away from the encounter alight with the divine radiance. In the opening book of the Bible, Sunday is the day when God begins to call the world into being with the creation of light. For Jesus, the first day of the week was the day of resurrection, when God called him beyond death to new life deep within God’s own self. May this day, this Sunday, be a day of encounter with the Holy Other. That encounter will leave us different than we were when our eyes closed last night. Let’s live into the new creation, the transformed life, that God invites us to embrace.
SAT – 180811 – Clare of Assisi, d. 1252
Title
When the roses are in bloom
Body
One of my favourite legends about St Clare of Assisi (whose feast we observe today) celebrates the profound love between her and St Francis of Assisi. According to the story, as they were walking through a forest in winter Francis asks Clare whether she has heard what people are saying about them. Francis declares they must stop seeing each other for a period of time, but does not indicate how long this will be. When—after a period of strained silence—Clare asks when she will be able to see him again, Francis replies: “In the summer, when the roses bloom.” At once roses burst forth from the snow-covered bushes. Clare picks a bunch of the flowers and gives them to Francis. And they were never separated again. This legend celebrates a love that dances on the edge of social acceptance, and yet is affirmed as holy and good by God. May we have the courage to love adventurously, needing no approval beyond the response of the beloved and the blessing of heaven.
FRI – 180810 – Laurence, deacon & martyr, d. 258
Title
Treasures of the church
Body
August 10 is the feast day for Laurence, a Deacon in the Church at Rome, who was killed for his faith on this day is 258 CE. A rich set of legends about the circumstances of his death soon developed. While these legends may have little basis in fact, they tell us a lot about what really mattered to people of faith some 1,760 years ago. In the legend, Laurence is promised his freedom if he will surrender the treasures of the church. Three days later at the agreed time for handing over the most valuable assets of the Church in Rome, Laurence arrived with a crowd of beggars, sick people and widows. These, he insisted, were the treasures of the Church. Laurence was promptly put to death, but his legend continues to resonate awkwardly in our churches who have so often disregarded the vulnerable and protected the privileged, as the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has revealed so starkly. The true treasure, the treasure hidden in the field of our lives, are the broken and vulnerable who God entrusts to our care.
THR – 180809 – Mary Sumner, d.1921
Title
Healthy families, healthy communities
Body
Today many people will be remembering with gratitude the work of Mary Sumner, who died on this day in 1921. She was the founder of the Mothers’ Union, a lay movement with a vision of a world where God’s love is shown through loving, respectful and flourishing relationships. There is no more important task and no more rewarding role than nurturing the spiritual capacities of our children and other family members. As a Cathedral community, we work with parents, godparents, grandparents and other members of the extended family to offer our children the best support as they grow in their knowledge, in their sense of connection with God, in their compassion for others and in their care for the fragile web of life. No matter our age or the ‘shape’ of our family, these are attributes we all need for everyday life.
WED – 180808 – Now the green blade rises
Title
Love is come again
Body
The evocative hymn by John Crum (1872–1958) elaborates the saying of Jesus about a grain of wheat that falls into the ground, where it is transformed to become many grains. The first verse of the hymn reads: Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been; Love is come again like wheat arising green. May our lives be places of transformation, renewal and resurrection. Love lives again!
TUE – 180807 – Pearl of great price
Title
The priceless pearl
Body
Matthew 13:45–46 preserves the following parable of Jesus (also found in the Gospel of Thomas): “… the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” This is classic Jesus wisdom: edgy, exaggerated, impractical, but evocative. What is it about the wisdom that Jesus proclaims which makes us discard everything else of value in our lives for the sake of having this great treasure? What is this priceless pearl, the nugget of immense value, that we seek? Are we actively engaged in the search, or just hoping it might fall into our lap?
MON – 180806 – Transfiguration / Hiroshima
Title
A world transfigured
Body
August 6. In the calendar of the western churches, today is observed as the feast of the transfiguration of Jesus. For many of us, the world itself was transfigured when the first atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima on this date in 1945. We glimpsed new possibilities, for good and evil, that day. In one sense we stepped out of the Iron Age and into the Nuclear Age in that moment of unparalleled destructive power. Most people alive now have never experienced the old world on the other side of Hiroshima. All of us need wisdom old and new to live faithfully in a strange new world on this side of Hiroshima.
SUN – 180805 – Pentecost 11(B)
Title
Love, actually
Body
As any parent or grandparent knows, love matters more than anything else. How sad that many people of faith seem to think that having correct beliefs or acting in certain ways matters more than being loving. Yet last time I checked, the “new commandment” Jesus gave his followers was to love one another, not check each other’s beliefs or personal behaviours. And the two great commandments are: (1) love God, and (2) love other people. At Grafton Cathedral we reflect this ancient spiritual wisdom in our tag line: “open doors … open hearts … open minds …” In the end, it is all about love. What else matters?
SAT – 180804 – Stillness
Title
Stillness
Body
The ancient Hebrew creation poem that we find at the opening pages of the Bible culminates with these words: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:1–3 NRSV) Coming at the end of the seven momentous days, we might like to think of resting, of sabbath, as the ultimate point of creation, the deepest significance of existence. What matters most is not that we are active, but that we can be still: aware, mindful, reflective, conscious, alive, self-aware.
FRI – 180803 – First Principles
Title
First principles
Body
The ancient Jewish prophet, Micah, gets to the heart of things with this classic piece of spiritual wisdom: “what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 NRSV) Not bad as a personal mission statement?
THR – 180802 – Beatitudes 1
Title
Beatitude 1
Body
The so-called Sermon on the Mount is an ancient Christian collection of the core teachings of Jesus. There is nothing here about sin and atonement, but a great deal about living in a simple and uncomplicated way. Those who live this way, according to Jesus, will possess the kingdom of God, or the reign of God. This is not a matter of status or power, but of knowing ourselves to be loved by God. Just as we are. At the beginning of the great Sermon is a version of the Beatitudes, a list of people who know deep blessing. Here is the first of those Beatitudes, first as preserved in the Gospel according to Matthew: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NRSV) Simplicity of spirit, and uncomplicated openness to God’s presence among us and within us, is a pathway to a life that is truly blessed.
WED – 180801 – Our daily bread
Title
The first morsel
Body
“Give us today our daily bread.” This is one of the most loved lines in the Lord’s Prayer. It is also one of the most difficult lines of biblical Greek to translate, as can be seen by the variants in different versions of the prayer. What is this bread that I need each day? What sustains me on the journey? In what sense is this “bread” something I receive as a gift from God, from Life? I trust these daily morsels from Grafton Cathedral will be one of the ways that God provides you with the bread you need for each day. May Jesus be the bread of life for us … today and always.
Posted in Archive, Grafton Cathedral, Morsels | Leave a comment