Morsels 2018 October

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these versions of the messages 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
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
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
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
Saint Simon and St Jude
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
A Celtic psalm
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
Quran 5:32
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
Murder most foul
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
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
Time zones
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
Light a candle
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
Disruptive faith
“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
Radical faith
“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
“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
St Luke
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
Make Poverty History
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
The last shall be first
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
Camels and needles
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
Privilege and discipleship
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
A circle of blessing
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
This we believe
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
Mother Earth, Our Mother Birthing
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
Creatures around the throne
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
All creatures great and small
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
Thanksgiving and confession
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
Web of life
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
Pilgrimage Blessing
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
Teachers who have shaped us
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
Make me a channel of your peace
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
Beatitude 8
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
Non-violent justice
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
A cup of water
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)
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Morsels 2018 September

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these versions of the messages 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
Draw the circle wide
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
St Michael and All Angel
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
National Police Remembrance Day
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
St Vincent de Paul
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)
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
Reaching for the edges
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
Beatitude 7
“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
Capernaum’s child
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
A Shabbat prayer
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
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
Christianity as lifestyle
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
Disciples of Jesus
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)
Jesus Movement (Simple steps)
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)
Jesus Movement (more)
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
The Jesus Movement
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
Bless this house
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
Holy Cross Day
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 –
God of freedom, God of justice
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
Beatitude 6
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
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
Deliver us from evil
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
The feisty mother
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
City of God
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
Pray not for Arab or Jew
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
Beatitude 5
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
Save us from the time of trial
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
And the point is …
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
The Martyrs of PNG
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
Fathers’ Day
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
Caim Prayer
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
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Morsels 2018 August

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these versions of the messages 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
The God beyond words
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
One bread one body one humanity
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
Hungry and thirsty for justice (Beatitude 4)
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
Forgive as we forgive (Part Two)
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
Forgive as we forgive (Part One)
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)
Refugee Sunday 2018
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
Lives that are holy and hearts that are true
“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
Seeking wisdom first
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
A Celtic prayer for the morning
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
Beatitude 3
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
Tomorrow’s bread today
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
Do not be daunted
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 –
Holy Sophia, Lady Wisdom
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 –
Tikkun olam
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 –
Kingdom come
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 –
What we sing we believe
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
Mary, mother of the Lord
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
Forge meaning, build identity
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
Beatitude 2
“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
The future begins today
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
When the roses are in bloom
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
Treasures of the church
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
Healthy families, healthy communities
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
Love is come again
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
The priceless pearl
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
A world transfigured
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)
Love, actually
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
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
First principles
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
Beatitude 1
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
The first morsel
“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.
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Mindful worshippers


Prayerful Practices

A checklist for mindful worshippers


A checklist for prayerful practices to help us become more mindful as we engage intentionally with the spirit-work God that calls us to undertake during these 40 days of Lent, and at all times.


When entering the Cathedral

We are crossing a threshold, a liminal boundary between ‘outside’ and ‘in here’. You may want to acknowledge your entry into this house of prayer by making the sign of the cross, or offering a prayer such as this one attributed to St Francis of Assisi: We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your churches in the whole world, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.



Sit quietly in your place, breathe gently and allow the silence to envelope you in its wings. It is good to be here. It is good to be me.


Light a candle

Lighting a votive candle is a way of being conscious of a person or a particular matter we wish to hold in God’s love. The candle keeps burning as we walk away, just as our prayers continue to surround the person for who we are praying.


Stations of the Cross

The Cathedral has a set of modern stations that commemorate different moments in the traditional procession from the palace of Pontius Pilate to the execution grounds at Golgotha. Walk quietly from one to another and reflect on Jesus’ own faithfulness to God’s call on his life, as well as contemporary people who suffer abuse of judicial authority, who see their children tortured and killed, who struggle with doubt and fear.


The Gospel in Glass

Get to know the windows of this Cathedral and pray for the families who donated them. Delight in the skill of the artist and reflect on the biblical texts or characters depicted in the glass.


Memorial Plaques

Take time to wander from one memorial plaque to another. Who are they commemorating? What a precious legacy we have here. AMDG Ad maiorem Dei gloriam. Indeed. To the greater glory of God.


Organ preludes and postludes

The visual art of the building and its installations is matched by the musical art that streams out from the organ, as quiet preludes before the service begins or as triumphant celebrations as the liturgy ends.


Sing, choirs of angels

The Cathedral choir offers a variety of musical pieces during the liturgy, from the Introit to the Mass Setting of the day to the Psalm and the anthems during Holy Communion. Enjoy being carried by the angels as the Choir leads us in our worship.


During Holy Communion

While waiting during the time that other people are receiving the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, call to mind those people and those situations in your own life, for which you are seeking a blessing in this most intimate moment of the liturgy.


Pray the Pewsheet

The weekly bulletin has lots of information, most of which can be pivotal moments for prayer and reflection. Notice the Mass Setting and the musical choices for the day. Pray for those listed as sick, for bereaved families, the recently departed, and those whose year’s mind occurs at this time. Do you know any of these people? How might you offer them care and support this week? For what do you give thanks to God as a result of the time you shared with them?


Preview the Bible Readings

Our lectionary provides us a with a three-year cycle of texts to challenge, encourage, inform and stretch us. Do you recognise the readings set for today? What memories do those passages stir for you? Are you reminded of another passage you want to read when you get home? Should you be sharing these readings with anyone else who might find them helpful?


Pray the Hymns

The hymnbook is a rich collection of religious poetry. Look up the hymns set for today and consider why they may have been chosen to complement the readings or today’s festival. Read quietly through the hymns and pause to reflect on the deep experience of God among us that these poems preserve.


As you leave the Cathedral

Another beautiful prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be
consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying
That we are born to eternal life.

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And the lot fell on Matthias

Christ Church Cathedral Grafton
Feast of St Matthias
24 February 2019


[ video ]


It was the first extraordinary General Meeting in church history, and they had to fill a key position in the inaugural leadership team of the Jesus movement.

At least that is how the Acts of the Apostles, written by “Luke” as a sequel for his version of the great tradition about Jesus, tells the story.

Judas was no longer with them. His place needed to be filled. The Twelve needed to be complete as the new global mission commenced.

Two candidates are put forward: Joseph and Matthias. Both of them apparently from the circle of people who had been with Jesus since his Baptism, although there is never a mention of them in any earlier traditions. Not even in the earlier verses of Acts 1.

It was not only the first GM. It was also the first church raffle! And the prize went to … Matthias.

All told, this is a strange story and it sits oddly alongside the traditions found in the four Gospels as well as the letters of Paul. Matthias comes from nowhere and disappears just as fast. He is never heard of again.

Matthias matters more to me than most because my first appointment after my ordination as a Deacon was the Church of St Matthias at Zillmere, in Brisbane. The white vestments worn at my first Eucharist as a Priest were a gift from the Church of St Matthias, as was the pottery mass set made by Brother William, SFF and used at that first Eucharist.

So, what do we do with a story like that and a feast like this?

Well, in the absence of any solid information let me offer some reflections as we seek wisdom for the journey of life.

As Luke tells the story in the book of Acts, the early Jesus movement was a religious community with soft edges.

Already the boundaries were loose and expanding.

There were the surviving 11 male disciples, there were “certain women” (as if Luke could not quite bring himself to call women like Mary the Magdalene disciples or apostles). There was Mary the mother of the Lord. (A rather surprising tradition, given the life expectancy of peasant women in first-century Palestine.) And Luke says there were the “brothers of the Lord”.

All up around 120 people, according to Acts 1.

One hundred and twenty people less 11 disciples, less Mary and less the 4 brothers of Jesus, leaves quite a large group of “certain women” as well as quite a few other blokes, it seems.

Even if Luke, deferring to the cultural bias of his second-century audience, prefers not to name the women, or even count them.

That’s not many people really, but a lot more than we would imagine from the earlier Gospels.

Two of this larger group—excluding the brothers of Jesus (interestingly) and all of the women (not surprisingly)—were nominated at the Special Meeting to fill a vacancy on the Parish Council. Well, not exactly a Parish Council, but you get the idea.

Our AGM after church this morning will be a lot less dramatic, I expect. And women are welcome to nominate!

How widely do we cast the net when thinking of our membership circle?

Are we a community which new people find easy to join and navigate?

Will they be welcomed into key roles in the parish without having to serve a lengthy apprenticeship while we get to know them and make sure they know how things are done around here?

Are we a faith community where people are welcome and included no matter their gender or their sexual orientation? Thankfully we can say YES to that one!

Many churches in town could not say that.

Are we a community where people bring their gifts as volunteers and contribute to building and shaping spiritual practices that are diverse, healthy and life-affirming?

Again, I think we can say yes, even if it is one of the best-kept secrets in town.

Later in the service and again during the service on Wednesday morning, we shall be recognising the ministry of the dozens of volunteers who make our shared life happen. On Wednesday we shall focus on those who contribute primarily to the Op Shop, the Bookshop, and the Cathedral grounds. But in a few minutes, we shall recognise those who do so much to enable and enrich our Sunday worship gatherings,

Every Sunday is a team effort, and the ones you see up front in fancy robes are just the tip of a large iceberg.

Meanwhile, whatever happened to Matthias and Joseph?

For that matter, whatever happened to the other 102 persons whose names are not even mentioned?

We have no idea, but we do know that because of their faithfulness the legacy of Jesus did not vanish after Easter but became a social movement that challenged, confronted and defeated the Roman Empire.

Two hundred and ninety-five years after that first Extraordinary General Meeting of the Jesus movement in Jerusalem, the Christian Emperor Constantine summoned the bishops of the Roman world to a council in Nicea. The creed they agreed upon is what we shall stand to say together after this sermon ends.

It all began with Matthias and the other 119 people who Luke says were gathered in the secret room between the Ascension and Pentecost.

From little things big things grow.

Thanks be to God.


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The God who subverts

Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
Epiphany 6C
17 February 2019


[ video ]

We really 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 that 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.






It has been very so tempting to stop right there and go back to my seat …

Enough said?

More than enough for us to work on during the week?





As I reflect on the Beatitudes in Luke a few things strike me:

Luke’s version is usually seen as closer to what Jesus would have actually said.

Luke’s version moves from speaking about “them” to addressing us (“you”). We have moved from ideas to praxis, from theory to real life.

Luke’s version is more confronting for people like us.

We are not poor, for the most part …

We are not hungry now, or really ever …

We do not have much reason to be sad, and the things that should make us weep we mostly ignore …

We rarely have people saying seriously bad stuff about us …

On the other hand …

We are rich, compared to most people alive in the world now and almost everyone else in human history …

We are so full so much of the time that we have health issues from over-consumption …

We love to laugh and be entertained, and we prefer politicians who promise to keep us safe from scary people and nasty situations … even when we know they are lying

We mostly are people about whom others speak well …

We are respectable, comfortable, nice and good people.

We are Anglicans.

We are Cathedral people!


Jesus according to Luke

You may recall that this is the Year of Luke, and we are paying special attention to Luke’s way of talking about Jesus this year.

As we noticed in the Dean’s Forum a couple of weeks back, Luke wrote for people like us: nice people with comfortable lives and some degree of social status.

Yet Luke preserves the prophetic words of Jesus in a form that disturbs us and make us uncomfortable.

Were Jesus standing for parliament most of us would not vote for him.

He would raise our taxes and spend the funds on assistance to the poor.

And he wants our vote?

No, Jesus does not want our vote. It is much worse than that. Jesus wants our whole being: our hearts, our minds, our assets and our souls.

He is no politician.

Jesus is far more dangerous than a politician.


Captain’s pick

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 us all a chance …

That is why the priest says each Sunday as we are called to the Table of Jesus:

The gifts of God for the people of God.
Holy things for holy people.
Broken things for broken people.


We are all people with some form of brokenness in our lives: sometimes that brokenness is visible but most of the time it is invisible.

But the God who subverts calls us (yes, us) to be agents of change and communities of reconciliation.

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 … starting with Grafton.




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The God who calls

Christ Church Cathedral Grafton
Epiphany 5C
10 February 2019


[ video ]

Sometimes the readings that are served up by the lectionary are a bit sparse when it comes to offering stimulus material for a sermon. But this week we have a feast of classic texts, each of which could trigger one or more sermons.

Don’t worry. I am only going to give one short sermon today!

As you know, we are still in the season of Epiphany; that time in between Christmas and Lent. This is a time when we are invited to reflect on ways in which we have gained some kind of insight into the ways of God with our soul or with our world.

Those epiphany moments when faith just makes sense, precious moments indeed.

They may not answer our questions, but they kind of make the questions less important as we embrace a larger kind of truth.

Indeed, as we shall see this morning, sometimes those insights turn our lives upside down!

There was an epiphany moment in each of the three readings this morning, and more than one in a couple of the readings.

Isaiah 6—a high official in the royal court of Jerusalem is attending yet another religious ceremony in the Temple, but this time it was a conversion experience! He was about to be drawn into a whole new ministry as a prophet, and he would leave a legacy whose impact is still felt today. He had been to the Temple numerous times, but this time it was different.

1 Corinthians 15—Paul is reciting a list of resurrection appearances by the risen Jesus when he describes his own calling to be an apostle. As Paul says, he was an enemy of the Jesus movement and actively persecuting anyone suspected of being a Christian. He was not likely to become the most important interpreter of Jesus ever. Yet God turned his life around and we still pay attention to Paul when we try to understand how to practice our faith.

Luke 5—it was just another regular fishing day for Peter and his business partners. No catch at all last night despite the hours spent out on the lake. A little distance away he could see Jesus from Nazareth talking to crowds of people on the lake shore about the kingdom of God, but Peter was not even listening. He had nets to clean and mend before they went out again that night in search of fish. Then Jesus comes and asks Peter to take him a short distance offshore in his fishing boat so he could keep on talking to the crowds without being pushed into the lake! Afterwards, this cocky carpenter even told him where to find fish. What would he know? Worse still, he was right! They caught the biggest load of fish Peter had ever seen. Almost sunk his boat and his partner’s boat under the weight of all those fish. As Jesus said, it was time to leave the fishing trade and go learn how to fish for people!

Those are not just weird stories from 2000 years ago or more.

That stuff still happens.

Tomorrow we mark 40 years since I was ordained as a priest, but that was not the career I had in mind as I came to the end of Year Twelve. I was heading for the military. The forms for Duntroon were already completed and waiting to be posted. But someone who knew nothing of my plans was used by God to turn my life pathway upside down and inside out. The forms for Duntroon never got posted.

If we had time to go around the church this morning and if people felt safe enough to share their personal life stories, I suspect we would find many other stories of lives turned around or even upside down by this audacious God who calls; the God who disturbs and overthrows our best-made plans.

We really should have a sign at the west doors of this Cathedral warning people not to come inside:









Even the kids who are causing trouble again as they steal candles and mess up the sound system cables may find that God is messing with their lives while they think they are being so tough and so smart. Perhaps they should ask Paul? He was one tough dude until God got at him.

Actually, the sign would be of no use—except maybe to stimulate discussion, and that might be a good thing.

Even staying away from the Cathedral will not stop God from touching your heart and calling you into service.

Even those hundreds of Grafton Anglicans who demonstrate their solid Anglican identity by avoiding worship except for Baptisms and funerals may find that God has plans for them as well. As indeed she does.

Wherever we are and whatever our current disposition, God has a purpose for our lives and God will persist in calling us to embrace that calling for our sake and for the sake of others.

Our job as a Cathedral community is to be a safe and supportive place for people to explore what God’s call on their life looks like and to support them as they start the journey God is calling them to make.

If we can be that kind of faith community others will be blessed and the world will be transformed.

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Intentional discipleship

This essay was published in the February 2019 issue of North Coast Anglican which will be available in churches across the Diocese of Grafton this morning.


In the liturgical afterglow of Advent and Christmas with all those special services and all that wonderful music, we pause and catch our breath.

The season of Epiphany—like its more rigorous cousin, Lent—invites us to reflect on the many ways that we encounter the God who reaches out to us and then to fashion our response to Emmanuel, God with us.

We are invited into intentional discipleship, as distinct from an inherited religious identity.

Discipleship is a word that is closely associated with Jesus and the responses people made to him on the other side of Calvary, before the Easter triumph transformed their views of his significance.

To my surprise when doing a recent word study in preparation for one of the Dean’s Forums at the Cathedral, I discovered that this is not a word ever used by Paul. It is a term only found in the four NT gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles, written originally as part two of the Gospel of Luke.

The difference between the Gospels and the Epistles is stark.


So to be a disciple is to be someone with an intentional relationship with Jesus.

To have beliefs and opinions about Jesus is not the essence of discipleship, even though disciples will have beliefs and opinions that matter deeply to us.

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.

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)

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 a once in a lifetime event, 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.

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.

Deep engagement with the Scriptures is another of the core spiritual disciplines for anyone who is serious about intentional discipleship. The church already offers many patterns for daily and weekly attention to Scripture, and there is no shortage of Bible reading plans online and in your local Christian bookstore. As the fitness gear retailers constantly remind us: just do it.

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.

Imagine the transformation in our mission as a Diocese and in the communities we serve if every North Coast Anglican was actively engaged in intentional discipleship.



Additional note: A video of the Dean presenting a session on intentional discipleship as part of the My Faith My Life My Church program at Grafton Cathedral is available on the Cathedral website


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Colonies of grace and communities of reconciliation

Epiphany 3C / Australia Day
Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
27 January 2019


[ video ]

At first glance those readings do not have much to do with Australia Day.

Of course, they were not chosen for their relevance to our national day, but are simply the readings set for the third Sunday after the Epiphany.

Each week the liturgy team has the task of seeing how the readings intersect with our lives as a faith community and as a civic community. Robert is selecting anthems and songs that engage with the readings while also expressing our story of faith. And the preacher seeks to tease all this out in a way that provokes us to deeper thought and more faithful action.

The process is the same every week, but this time the focus is on Australia.

Mixed messages

This is a more complex challenge than usual because the relationship between religion and the nation is complex and at times contested.

As Anglicans, we have our own history in all this as well, and that complicates the task when we try to think clearly about the intersection of national identity and Christian faith.

There have been times in history when this was an easier matter.

Our first reading comes from when there was no separation between religion and national identity. Nehemiah has summoned the entire population of the province of Yehud in the time of the Persian Empire. They are about to hear a big chunk of the Bible read out in a language they no longer spoke, and then they are obliged to accept those texts as the basis of their national life together.

Religion was closely integrated into public life, and the ruler regulated religion as a tool for staying in power and keeping people in their place.

Fast forward about 400 years and we come to the scene in the Gospel reading as Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth. The public sphere was still regulated by empire, but Jesus was launching a religious reform movement that will eventually subvert the Roman Empire and every other empire that would follow it.

As his most influential interpreter, Paul of Tarsus, would write about 20 years after Easter:

There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Like everyone else in the ancient world and up until very recent times even in the West, Jesus lived in a world where your nationality mattered very little. What counted most was the empire that controlled everything.

Allegiance to the empire was expressed in religious terms. The emperor was understood as a manifestation, an epiphany, of the gods. The emperor was your Lord and your saviour.

The ancient Jews were mostly exempted from emperor worship, but the Temple in Jerusalem was required to offer sacrifices for the empire and its emperor every day of the year.

Jesus’ axiom—give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give God what belongs to God—reflects the complex dynamics of life under the empire.

So, to paraphrase Jesus, what do we give to the nation, and what can we only give to God?

Beyond the wars of religion

140 years before the First Fleet landed in Botany Cove these questions were resolved for many Europeans in the Treaty of Westphalia. That treaty—which remains unknown to most people—has largely shaped our experience of religion in a society that is essentially secular.

Indeed, while we tend to think that we enjoy freedom of religion, in fact the Treaty of Westphalia was about freedom from religion.

After 80 years of war between Catholics and Protestants, Europe was exhausted and the solution was a treaty that limited religion to the personal and private sphere, while insisting that all citizens exercise their rights and their duties without regard to each other’s religion.

So, for example, as an Anglican government official, I could no longer discriminate against my Presbyterian neighbour when he applied for a permit. And the Catholic working in the Post Office could not refuse to accept my mail. In our public life within civil society, religion was banished to the private realm of personal choice and family life.

This mindset was at the heart of the new colonies being established in this ancient land.

The evils of religious wars and sectarian conflicts were to be avoided. There would be no established religion. When the constitution was drafted for the Commonwealth of Australia, the new parliament was banned from making any laws to promote or favour one religion over another.

We live in one of the first explicitly secular societies in human history, and that means we need to rethink the mission of the church to the nation and within the nation.

The Church in the public square

We find ourselves closer to the situation of Jesus than to Nehemiah.

As a Cathedral we seek to serve our local community, whatever people’s religious identity, but we do not endorse our current constitutional arrangements over any other. We do not prefer republics to monarchies. We do not support one political party over another.

Each of us will have our own opinions about all those matters, but as a church we have little to give to Caesar and we do not seek to impose our beliefs on the nation nor its parliament.

As citizens in a democracy we can act individually and collectively to promote particular causes, but as a church we interact with the nation on another level.

So what do we bring to the table this national day?

We do not seek privilege and power.

But we do speak for justice and we do seek to serve.

Again, we find ourselves closer to Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth than to Nehemiah in the square by the Water Gate in Jerusalem:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18–19)

Our role is not to legislate or even to enforce.

Our role is to be agents of God’s love in every part of Australian life.

The Spirit of the Lord has come upon us (do we really believe that?) … We are anointed to bring good news to the poor … We have been sent to proclaim release for captives (those in detention centres?) … We have been sent to proclaim recovery of sight to those who cannot see the way ahead … We have been sent to let the oppressed go free (welcoming asylum seekers?) … We have been sent to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour

We are not just to talk about good news, freedom, new vision, liberty and blessing. That would be far too easy.

Our mission is to be a Cathedral community where people find hope, meaning, freedom, acceptance, inclusion, healing, a helping hand, a listening ear, and a caring heart.

That is our gift to the city and to the nation on this Australia Day weekend.

Imagine how we can transform our city and indeed the nation when the churches of this land embrace God’s call to be that kind of community. No longer religious rivals, but colonies of God’s grace and communities of genuine reconciliation.

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800 bottles of your best wine, please

Epiphany 2C
Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
20 January 2019


[ video ]

All around the world today, the Gospel reading in all the mainline churches today will be that story we have just heard: Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding celebration in Cana, a village quite close to Nazareth.

For Kefr Kana, this is their day.

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: 600 litres of wine!

This is a symbolic story, a story of transformation, together with the promise that the best is yet to come (“you have the best until last”).

So let’s tease it out briefly to see what spiritual wisdom there may be for us in this ancient story today.


Jesus was at a wedding

A Middle Eastern wedding is a big deal and they last several days.

There was lots of catering, and the host could not run short of food or wine. Haraam, Shame, for the groom’s family in such a situation.

What I like most about this story is simply that Jesus turned up at family events and major community celebrations.

It would have been perfect for us today—as we baptise Isabella, Isabell and Ivy— had this story been about Jesus turning up at a Baptism, or at least to the party afterwards.

No shortage of wine, folks.

And he was a pretty deft hand at coming up with extras food as needed; provided you like pita bread and dry fish.

Do not get distracted by the miracle.

The headline here is that Jesus hangs out with regular people and does ordinary stuff.

As these girls grow up that is the mindset we need to share with them: Jesus is with us, even when everything seems ordinary. Especially at such times.


Water turns into wine

We would pack this place several times a day on Sunday if I could promise to turn your containers of water into beautiful fine wine.

A friend of mine whose kids I baptised many years ago, used to say every time we caught up at a BBQ: Fr Greg, when you get a licence on Sundays, I will be in church.

In the Gospel of John this transformation of water into wine is called a sign.

It is not about the water, or even about the wine: although it was really good wine and there was lots and lots of it. Around 800 bottles of wine!

Even the Bible says this is a sign, a symbolic story, and not something to be taken literally.

In the story, Jesus turns water into wine.

Every day, Jesus turns our ordinary lives into something else, something more.

If people really understood that we would indeed be packing this place every Sunday, because what happens here is better than any other ‘upgrade’ available around town.

Again, this is the secret to a fantastic life that we all need to share with these three girls, with everyone around us, and indeed with that toughest audience: ourselves.

We are going to share that secret recipe for a good life with them, and we are signing up for that today. All of us.


Keep the best until last

There is a great little punch line in that ancient story.

When the MC tastes this extra wine that has suddenly turned up at the wedding, he calls the groom over and speaks with him:

‘Hey, mate. What is going on here. Most people serve the best wine first and when folk are already drunk they bring out the cheap stuff. But you have kept the best wine until last. You are crazy man!”

Well, it was something like that. It’s a rough translation.

Sometimes we feel like our best days are behind us.

Old folks can feel like that.

So can young marrieds.

And new parents can feel like that as well.

We cannot do what we used to enjoy …

Guess what, the best is yet to come. God keeps the best until last. Now.

For the parents, godparents and extended families of these three girls the best is yet to come. There is so much more to experience, to learn, to share, to celebrate. The best has been kept until last. And last starts now.

Let’s go baptise these girls …

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