Monthly Archives: February 2019

March 5 – Dianne Buchanan

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Dianne Ethelle Buchanan, Christian Pioneer

1945 – 1993

You may ask why should a Gympie grave in Queensland display words in an Aboriginal language of the Northern Territory that say, ‘Märr-ŋamathinyamirrnydja walal gi bala-räli’yunmirr yan” which translates as ‘Love one another’ from John’s gospel.[i] The answer lies in the life of Dianne Buchanan.

On the 18th October 1946, Dianne was born to Nils and Grace Buchanan. She was the only daughter, in a farming family of 4 children, whose livelihood came from growing delicious sweet pineapples in the district of Gympie.

In 1955, when Dianne was 9 years of age she decided to love and follow Jesus. After completing her teaching training and a couple of years teaching at Biloela Kindergarten in Queensland, she responded to the Methodist Overseas Mission’s appeal for teachers to help at the fast expanding school on Elcho Island in the Northern Territory.

She winged her way into Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island, as a pre-school teacher, in 1969, where she was welcomed not just as a teacher but as one of the community, receiving an Aboriginal subsection name ‘Galikali’.

“Deep down I knew it was where God wanted me,” Di said. “The children were delightful to teach. So accepting and uncritical of my attempts to communicate in their language. The Aboriginal people are a very gentle people … I’ve been ministered to in many ways.”[ii]

After five happy years in the Pre-school, she was drawn into Adult Literacy, which displayed her gift with languages. This led to another career change in 1977 when she was nominated to be translator of the Bible into Djambarrpuyŋu, the largest language group represented on Elcho Island and also used in the neighbouring Yolŋu communities of North East Arnhem land.

She continued to work on translating the New Testament for her Aboriginal family right up until her final days. Rev Djiṉiyiṉi Goṉḏarra said of Dianne that she was ‘a pioneer in her linguist work, and a strength for both Church and Community.’ ‘She saw many changes. She saw self-determination’ he said,[iii] and ‘was one of the few missionaries who was able to adapt to the changing circumstances of Aboriginal community life’.[iv] It was a privilege for Di in 1988 to be the first lady to lead 30 traditional Yolŋu Christians from Galiwin’ku to the Holy Land.”[v]

Di was a major prayer support and encourager in spiritual renewal and the revival at Elcho Island in the 1970’s and 1980’s.[vi] Her diaries were a significant contribution to the writing of the book ‘Fire in the Outback’ by John Blacket.

Of her own spiritual journey she writes: “With a renewal of my own commitment to a love-relationship with Jesus, came a release from an over-developed sense of responsibility for the church at Galiwin’ku.[vii] ‘Only in union with him will you find real complete freedom, unspeakable joy, the peace that passes understanding. So now take his yoke on you again, … for he promised to carry (his) share.’[viii]

Over 20 of her Aboriginal family from Elcho Island travelled to Gympie to join with Dianne’s family and friends to mourn her death, on the 5th March 1993. One could not help but also celebrate her rich and wonderful life, as one who loved and trusted in her Lord. She was only 47, but by God’s grace 7 months earlier she was able to stand with her translation colleagues and witness the dedication of a Mini-Bible, that included five-eighths of the New Testament, produced in Djambarrpuyŋu during Elcho Island’s Jubilee celebrations.

Di’s favourite writing of Mother Basilea of the Sister’s of Mary takes pride of place on the front page of Di’s Bible.

O none can be loved as is Jesus

None like him is found anywhere

‘Tis He whom I love, whom I long for

For no-one with Him can compare.

So all that I have I will give Him

I’ll sacrifice all I hold dear,

My whole life to Jesus belonging

My heart seeks my Lord to revere.

I’ll  follow now close in His footsteps

The path that He trod here below,

I only desire what He gives me

And only His way I will go.

My heart is at peace and so joyful

For all I desire He supplies

I look now for nothing but Jesus

Who all of my hopes satisfies.

 Margaret Miller and Dr Marilyn McLellan

 

[i]  In the writings of John these words are found in John 15:12, also John 13:34

[ii] ‘Profile. Di Buchanan: translator’ p11 in Journey, May 1992

[iii]  ‘Islanders mourn church worker’ p7 ‘Northern Sign’, a magazine of the Northern Synod, Uniting Church in Australia. Number 4. April 1993. Article also p5 of NT News 11 March 1993

[iv]  “Selfless devotion of mission worker, a newpaper article of ‘Gympie Times’ 11th March 1993

[v] ‘Dianne Ethel Buchanan, 1945-1993, A Tribute’ p8,9 in the Queensland Uniting Church Auxiliary for World Mission Newsletter May 1993

[vi] “Two Bible Translators Die” p7 Khesed Newsletter March 1993.

[vii] Di’s newletter dated ‘end of March’ year not stated, ca 1982

[viii] ‘Genesis 3’ –writing of Di Buchanan, 1991

MtE Update – February 26 2019

  1. We will have another of our hymn-learning sessions after worship THIS SUNDAY March 3. First among the pieces to be learned is a new communion setting we’ll be using during Lent
  2. We are investigating hearing assistance options in the church; a ‘hearing loop’ under the building is impractical  but there are other options, including systems which assist those with and without hearing aids. If this would interest you, please let Craig know.
  3. Our ASH WEDNESDAY service is Wednesday March 6. This year the service will be preceded by a light meal from 6pm (gold coin donation), with the service itself commencing at 6.45pm. Our Ecclesiastes reflections, commenced last Sunday, will be taken up again in the Ash Wednesday service. 
  4. News from the Justice and International Mission Unit (JIM) of the Synod
  5. Hotham Mission will be running a BBQ fundraiser at Brunswick Bunnings (in the carpark behind the store) on Saturday 09/03/19, between about 8:30am – 4:30pm. IF you are interested and able to assist for however long on the day, please let HM’s community development coorindator, Joey, know (11-2pm is the busiest, but help at any time would be great!): joey.rebakis@hothammission.org.au 
  6. Our Lenten Study series will run for four weeks after Ash Wednesday (Wednesday nights, March 13,20,27 and April 3). An intro to the series can be found here, and hard copies are available in the church. There will also be a Friday morning series at Hawthorn in the same weeks (March 15, 22, 29 and April 5).
  7. If you are interested in participating in an ONLINE (video conference) version of the Lenten studies, early evenings for four weeks on Tuesdays from March 12, please let Craig know. We need ‘quorum’ of 3 or 4…
  8. We will return to Ecclesiastes on Ash Wednesday. This coming Sunday is Transfiguration. If you would like to do some background reading on the texts, see the commentary links here

Other things potentially of interest 

  1.  A Good Friday performance of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion

Old News

  1. Details of our Lenten and Easter services are now available here.
  2. Beginning this Sunday February 24, and for most of the Sundays and special services in Lent, we will be working through parts of the book of Ecclesiastes, using ‘the Teacher’s’ understanding of ‘life under the sun’ as a way of interpreting Jesus’ path to the cross. More information about this can be found here, but in the mean time you might find it helpful to take the time to read Ecclesiastes once or twice before we begin together with it.

24 February – Love, for no reason

View or print as a PDF

Epiphany 7
24/2/2019

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18
Psalm 37
Luke 6:27-38


In a sentence:
Love is not a technique, not a means to an end; ‘just do it’

We have all at some time reached out to touch the lowest part of a hanging mobile, then watched as it bobs and turns above us, each of the arms and hanging baubles twisting to re-adjust under the extra momentum we have just introduced to the system. A mobile is a marvellous demonstration of a network of balanced forces. To change a weight or the length of some of the supporting arms is to change the way the mobile will settle. To simply remove one of the weights would to be see much of it collapse.

A hanging mobile provides us with a marvellous metaphor for the Christian Scriptures. The predominant metaphor we have for the Bible is, of course, ‘book’. It clearly is a book, but with the notion of a book comes a sense of how the elements hold together – the concept of a narrative, a movement from a beginning to an end. This is a helpful way of understanding how the Scriptures work but it is not the only way.

Let us consider, instead, that the Scriptures are not so much a linear narrative but a mobile on which hangs the 66 books which make up our Bible. In this understanding, it doesn’t matter where each is hung: they are no longer ‘in order’. Rather, they are hung in such a way that they balance each other out. Now we no longer have a more-or-less continuous unfolding of a history but a set of interacting accounts of life under God. If we change one of them – not by adding or subtracting content but by giving it more weight as we improve our understanding of its testimony – then that extra weight requires that everything else in the system shifts accordingly, in order to keep the balance.

On this understanding, every Scriptural book impacts upon every other scriptural book: Genesis upon Revelation, Song of Songs upon Romans, Ecclesiastes upon Luke’s Gospel.

And this brings us to our project for the next couple of months. The book of Ecclesiastes, for most of us, sits rather strangely in the Bible. To many it is pessimistic, nihilistic, acquiescent, world-weary – none of which seems appropriate given the apparent orientation of the whole of sweep of the Scriptures towards the hope of joy in Christ. This is probably why, in the version of the lectionary we use, only one passage of Ecclesiastes appears: on New Year’s Day we might hear the poem of chapter 3, ‘for everything there is a season…’

But there it is – Ecclesiastes as a whole – the Bible. On the metaphor of the book, we might think we can exclude it by saying that it is overtaken by the flow of the story, that Jesus is an answer to Ecclesiastes, an overcoming of his conclusions. But we can only say this on the basis of that particular metaphor. The metaphor of the Bible as a hanging mobile – a system of mutually affecting testimonies – calls for a different reading. If we exclude Ecclesiastes, why do we imagine that we understand the gospel of the crucified and risen Jesus, on which Ecclesiastes acts? It might be not so much that Jesus overtakes Ecclesiastes as that Jesus echoes him. If this were the case, would it not expand enormously our understanding of the cross? Could there be a relationship between the central theme of Ecclesiastes – ‘vanity’ – and the central theme of the gospels – the cross? Could we dare to imagine ‘the vanity of the cross’? That it seems so impious to do suggests that it might make a good title for a Good Friday sermon!

As with all things which really matter, this will be a matter of definitions. Let us, then, look to what Ecclesiastes means when he speaks of vanity, and consider what this might have to say about we have heard from Jesus in today’s set reading.

‘Vanity’ is the standard translation in Ecclesiastes of the Hebrew word ‘hebel’. And it is an unfortunate translation, because the modern sense of the English word is too narrow and specific to capture Ecclesiastes’ point. To speak of vanity is to speak of self-absorption, narcissism. Socially this is an empty, pointless pursuit, and such emptiness is part of what Ecclesiastes is getting at but there is rather more. In fact, he uses the word in several different ways. If we try to find a common thread which strings his various uses together it is something like the notion, ‘ungraspable’. The literal meaning of the Hebrew is ‘mist’ or ‘vapour’. Ecclesiastes extends this metaphorically to characterise our attempts to make sense of how the world works. For he finds ‘life under the sun’ to be ungraspable, incomprehensible. The unjust are rewarded when the just are not. We toil to gather the things we need, then die and someone who has not worked for them squanders them. A buffoon might become king. A good man can be crucified. This is not, of course, always the case. Yet Ecclesiastes sees that we cannot guarantee tomorrow. We cannot reliably extrapolate, we cannot confidently manipulate. There is no clear rhyme or reason to the world. And so there is no real movement, no progress: there is nothing new under the sun.

We will hear more of this as we consider Ecclesiastes’ reflections over the next couple of months but for now we will take a first test on his declaration of vanity – not by discussing abstractly whether or not he is a depressed pessimist but by turning to the gospel to see what resonance we might find between Ecclesiastes and what Jesus says and represents there.

Jesus puts to his disciples – and presumably also to us – ‘love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, turn the other cheek, don’t worry about who has your stuff’ (Luke 6.27-38). These are confronting commands. And because they are so confronting, there wells up in us the question, Why.

But there is no why. Jesus makes no promises in relation to this other than that you can expect no better than what you give.

We ask Why? because we know we might receive less than we give. The Why hears Jesus’ commandment as a means to an end. But Jesus promises no end. Chances are we’ll end up like he did – the cross is never far from his teaching. Asking ‘Why’ turns ethics into a technique, a method by which we obtain an outcome.

Yet this is precisely what Ecclesiastes says we cannot have. When we act we cannot guarantee the consequences. Calculation and prediction work in simple systems like natural science (at least up to a point) but they don’t work in history, in real human existence.

We will hear Ecclesiastes say again and again that there are things to be done, even if we can’t know that we’ll do them well or that we doing the right thing. We should just do them, nevertheless. Jesus doesn’t say this explicitly but it is there in the starkness of the command. Why one would do as Jesus commands is ungraspable, is beyond the capacities of any reason.

To put it differently, love is not a method. It guarantees no outcome, and it might be crucified. Doing to others as we would have them do to us is no guarantee that they will do to us in the same way.

This, I expect, is more than most of us want to hear. It is ungraspable, incomprehensible. We tend to love ‘in order that’ – in order that the loved one might change. But Jesus adds the disorienting ‘and expect nothing in return’; we could imagine that from the pen of Ecclesiastes (cf. Eccles 11.1-6).

This is not pessimism. It is a different handle on life – that life does not have reliable handles. Ethics – how we act – is not about technique, is not means to an end. It is about character, about the way in which we conduct ourselves in the world.

Love, Jesus, says, because there is really nothing else which matters.

Love, expecting nothing in return.

Love, for no reason.

MtE Update – February 21 2019

  1. Beginning this Sunday February 24, and for most of the Sundays and special services in Lent, we will be working through parts of the book of Ecclesiastes, using ‘the Teacher’s’ understanding of ‘life under the sun’ as a way of interpreting Jesus’ path to the cross. More information about this can be found here, but in the mean time you might find it helpful to take the time to read Ecclesiastes once or twice before we begin together with it.
  2. Hotham Mission will be running a BBQ fundraiser at Brunswick Bunnings (in the carpark behind the store) on Saturday March 9, between about 8:30am – 4:30pm. If you are interested and able to assist for however long on the day, please let HM’s community development coordindator, Joey, know: joey.rebakis@hothammission.org.au.
    (11am-2pm is the busiest, but help at any time would be great!)
  3. The most recent Synod eNews (Feb 14) is here.
  4. The most recent update from Justice and International Mission Unit is here.
  5. We will have another of our hymn-learning sessions after worship on Sunday March 3.
  6. Our Lenten Study series will run for four weeks after Ash Wednesday (Wednesday nights, March 13,20,27 and April 3). An intro to the series can be found here. There will also be a Friday morning series at Hawthorn in the same weeks (March 15, 22, 29 and April 5).
  7. Our focus on Ecclesiastes begins this Sunday, with Eccles 1.1-18 being our lead text. Each Sunday we will also hear the psalm and gospel set for the day; for those interested in doing some preparation prior to hearing those two readings for this coming Sunday February 24, see the commentary links here

Other things potentially of interest 

  1.  A Good Friday performance of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion

Old News

  1. Details of our Lenten and Easter services are now available here.

February 19 – J R B Love

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

James Robert Beattie (J.R.B.) Love, Christian pioneer

Presbyterian missionary to the Aborigines.

The fifth of 10 children born to the Rev George Clarke Love and his wife, Margaret Georgina, née Beattie, Bob Love’s Christian faith was nurtured in the Presbyterian manse at Strathalbyn, where his father ministered from 1892 to 1923. The family migrated to Australia when he was 5 months old and spent a short period in Vic before moving to SA. Experience gained in the bush around Strathalbyn as he grew helped prepare him for his future work in remote areas of Australia. Interest in a group of Aborigines who camped near their home for a short period kindled his missionary commitment. He taught as a student teacher at Strathalbyn in 1906-7 and was a student at the Pupil Teacher School in Adelaide and commenced study for a BA at University of Adelaide in 1908-9.

He was appointed head teacher of the Leigh Creek School, 500 km north of Adelaide. This environment stimulated his enquiring mind and his interest in exploring the bush. He sent specimens of rare birds to Edwin Ashby for showing at meetings of the Royal Society of SA. One identified as a new genus and species was named Ashbyia lovensis. He visited a nearby mission to learn more about the Aborigines.

In 1912 at the age of 23 he was asked by the Presbyterian Church to undertake an expedition ‘for the purpose of inquiring into the conditions of life among the Aborigines of the Interior’. He left Leigh Creek on 28 Dec 1912 with horses, a mule and two dogs. Accompanied for a short part of the journey by a brother, John, and a friend he travelled extensively in SA, the NT and Qld. He kept a diary and wrote a detailed report of the expedition and formed the habit of meticulous recording of observations, a feature of his later work.

Port George Mission had been established in the north-west of WA in 1912 by the Rev Robert Wilson and his wife Frances. Bob Love was asked to relieve the Wilsons to enable them to take leave. Following his arrival in Dec 1914 he undertook exploratory journeys to seek a new site for the mission. He embarked on a study of the Worora language. He left Port George on 14 July 1915. He enlisted in the AIF on 9 Nov 1915, joined a Light Horse Regiment in April 1916, and transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps in May. In August 1917 he was commissioned 2Lt and promoted Lt in Nov. He transferred to the 14th Light Horse in July 1918 and in Sept was one of the first of the allied troops to enter Damascus. He was wounded in the chest and hand and awarded the DCM and the MC ‘for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’.

On his return to Australia he entered Ormond College, University of Melbourne to complete his BA and undertake theological studies. He was ordained in Adelaide in 1922 and appointed to Mapoon Mission in north Qld. He married Margaret Holinger, a teacher at Mapoon, on 5 Sept 1923. They had four children.

After five years of involvement in the evangelistic, administrative, pastoral, agricultural and training work at Mapoon, he heard of financial problems which threatened the closure of Kunmunya, the new site of the former Port George Mission where he had served briefly before the war. He applied to serve as superintendent at Kunmunya and arrived there on 24 Aug 1927.

His early Christian upbringing, knowledge of bushcraft,  academic training, studies in Aboriginal culture and language and experience in leadership contributed to his 13 years of effective service at Kunmunya, a remote community dependent on the mission’s lugger for communication and supplies. He repudiated paternalism and earlier mission policies of opposing traditional customs. He respected the authority of the older men and held regular camp meetings, encouraging the people to discuss problems and make decisions. He was actively involved in the varied tasks of the mission, medical work, education, gardening servicing and running of the lugger, and the cattle industry. He recognised that there were aspects of traditional culture which could be used in explaining the Christian faith. He saw the need of communicating the gospel in the language of the people and engaged in further study of Worora language and translated the Gospels of Mark and Luke. His thesis on Worora grammar earned him an MA from the University of Adelaide. He insisted that when English was spoken by the people they spoke it well. His ministry led to the first baptisms at Easter, 1929 and the further growth of the church at Kunmunya.

While on leave in 1937 he spent 3 months visiting the Pitjantjatjara region of the northwest of SA to advise and assist in the establishment of Ernabella Mission. After 3 more years at Kunmunya he was asked to take up the role as superintendent of Ernabella. Leaving Kunmunya in 1940 he arrived at Ernabella on 2 March 1941 and during the difficult war years administered the development of the sheep industry and assisted in the study of the language. Underlying his involvement in all aspects of the mission’s work was the conviction, as he wrote in 1944, that ‘Our Scriptural commission is to heal the sick and preach the Gospel’.

The Loves left Ernabella on 2 March 1946, to serve as moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Australia. He was called to the Adelaide Hills charge of Mt Barker-Lobethal-Woodside but ill-health limited his time in ministry. He was described as a model of manly Christianity. The policies he advocated and implemented in the period between the two World Wars, respect for Aboriginal cultures and languages, encouragement of Aboriginal decision making and holistic mission, were forerunners of policies accepted more widely in recent decades.

J R B Love, Stone-Age Bushmen of To-day (London, 1936); M McKenzie, The Road to Mowanjum, (Sydney, 1969)

BILL EDWARDS
Content © Evangelical History Association of Australia and the author, 2004

17 February – Rooted, Resilient, Reconciled

View or print as a PDF

Epiphany 6
17/2/2019

Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
Luke 6:17-26

Sermon preached by Matt Julius


God, may my words be loving and true; and may those who listen discern what is not. Amen.

Our readings today are a little bit full on. Each of them puts into stark terms what is at stake in hearing and responding to the call of God.

Happiness and blessing are set in contrast to wickedness and woe.

As the Psalmist writes:

“Happy are those | who do not follow the advice of the wicked, … but delight in the law of the Lord, | on which they meditate day and night.” (Ps 1.1-2)

“The wicked … are like chaff that the wind drives away. | [they] will not stand in the judgement, | nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” (Ps 1.1a, 4b)

Wicked sinners are advised that this would be the time to step outside.

This theme from Psalm 1 of the blessed and the cursed, those who trust in mortals and those who delight in the Lord, is echoed in Jeremiah 17.

In both cases we hear the faint echoes of the ancient Jewish Wisdom tradition – which we see most clearly elsewhere in texts like ​Proverbs and ​Ecclesiastes​. This tradition within our Scripture emphasises the right or wise way of living, underneath the sovereign gaze of the Lord above.

Texts within this tradition emphasise the importance of living in a way that respects the eternal wisdom of the Lord. And these texts call on human beings to acknowledge their weakness and limited knowledge in the face of our common mortality.

Jeremiah reflects on these themes in reference to the weakness of mere flesh, and the devious and perverse nature of the human heart. We are led, in response, to trust in the Lord above who tests the mind and searches the heart.

All of this seems rather familiar to anyone who has read the advice of Scripture to live an upright life. To attend to an ethical standard in one’s conduct. To be moral, and wise, and good.

There is enough wisdom in simply saying that we should all seek to do what is right and moral, under the gaze of the sovereign Lord.

Perhaps this should be a short sermon.

However, … what struck me in Psalm 1, and in Jeremiah 17, was not the reminder of the sovereign Lord above. But rather this common image – which recurs in other parts of Scripture: of a tree planted by a stream of water.

Those who trust in the Lord are rooted by a stream. A stream that feeds, and nourishes. A stream that nurtures resilience. A stream that helps us to bear the fruits of goodness, even when the rains do not come, and the sun bears down upon us.

What struck me in the call to a good and wise life in our readings was not the sovereign Lord above, but the Lord below: in whom we are rooted, and nourished, and fed. From whom flows all goodness, and through whom we are able to bear good fruit.

There is a not so idle point here in how we should read these texts from the Hebrew Bible that are also part of our Christian Scriptures. An older attitude saw in the First Testament an emphasis on law and the call to right living, and therefore an emphasis on our own efforts and moral character. What we see in this image of being rooted next to a nourishing stream is, in fact, the deep well of love that runs through the Hebrew Bible. The love of God for people who seek to remain rooted, and trusting in the Lord.

These readings do not call on us to rely on our own strength. Quite the opposite. They call us to be rooted next to the stream of God’s love, from whom all goodness flows: that we might be resilient, and that we might bear good fruit.

The call of God is not first and foremost to aspire to the lofty heights of perfection. But to settle into the rooted nourishment of the love of God.

Settled here the power of God flows out for healing and comfort.

This is where we pick up our reading from Luke’s Gospel.

Gathered on a level place, people come to gather around Jesus. We are told that the people tried to touch him: the power of God flowed out of Jesus for healing and comfort.

And so the people gathered to sit alongside the one who elsewhere offers a wellspring of living water.

And this is what came out from the mouth of the river:

“Blessed are you who are poor, | for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, | for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, | for you will laugh.”

(Lk 6.20-21)

What struck me in our Psalm, and in our reading from Jeremiah 17, strikes me again here. Not the God who is above, but the God who is below. The God who offers blessing to the poor, to the hungry, and to those who weep.

What Jesus offers here, as the power of God flowed out from him, is healing and comfort to the poor, and to the lowly.

Jesus makes clear where the stream of God’s love flows. Jesus makes clear how the river marks the borders of God’s new kingdom.

The river of God’s love, flowing out with healing and comfort, twists and bends towards the poor: they are within God’s kingdom.

The river of God’s love, nourishes and nurtures the land, that those who are hungry should be fed by the land.

The river of God’s love washes away the tears, and becomes a babbling brook in which to splash and play with joy.

Rooted by this river, following where the stream flows, we “shall not fear when heat comes, | and [our] leaves shall stay green; … and [we will] not cease to bear fruit.” (Jer 17.8)

Jesus offers us here an echo of what we find in our Psalm, and in the words of Jeremiah. Not simply a path which we must travel alone to moral perfection. But a grounded, rooted resilience.

Jesus’ teaching is not first a statement about what we should do, but is first a statement about the contours of God and God’s love.

The challenge this teaching poses to us is whether we will allow ourselves to be caught up in the contours of this love of God, flowing through the world. The challenge is whether we will live out our participation in Christ, through our baptism in water: a grounded, rooted resilience. In Christ we have the hope of new leaves, and new branches, new fruit, and new life.

Jesus tells us clearly in today’s reading what this participation, this rootedness, in the life of God’s love will look like. And he places in stark terms what failing to participate in this love will mean.

Will we heed the calling of God, to settle by the river? To gather together and nourish and feed one another, and so be fed by God? Will we follow as the streams of God’s love ebb and flow, carving a shape into the landscape: bending towards the poor, and the hungry, and those weeping? Will we be rooted next to the river of the resilient love of God?

I want to finish with a short quotation from the chorus of a beautiful song by two artists, Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn:

“The water sustains me without even trying
The water can’t drown me, I’m done
With my dying”

This is the new life of baptism, the new life offered in Christ. Amen

————-

We offer thanks and praise, O God, because you have created and sustained us and all things.

And yet, merciful God …

Forgive us when we have failed to be rooted in you Seeking to fix the world in our own mortal strength
Relying on ourselves and not you, Lord

Forgive us when we have failed to follow your ways
Following the advice of the wicked
And not reflecting on your wisdom

Forgive us when we have failed to listen to your call Like shrubs in the desert that refuse the rain
And those who live in wilderness that refuse help

Above all,

Forgive us when we have failed to be sustained by you
Failing to live out our baptism
Failing to be fed at your table

For failing to be your beloved people
For failing to love the poor, and the hungry, and those who weep

Forgive us, O God

Amen.

MtE Update – February 15 2019

  1. Advance notice: Lent is still a while away, but the Lenten Study series will run for four weeks after Ash Wednesday (Wednesday nights, March 13,20,27 and April 3). An intro to the series can be found here. There will also be a Friday morning series at Hawthorn in the same weeks (March 15, 22, 29 and April 5).
  2. Beginning on Sunday February 24, and for most of the Sundays and special services in Lent, we will be working through parts of the book of Ecclesiastes in Lent, using ‘the Teacher’s’ understanding of ‘life under the sun’ as a way of interpreting Jesus’ path to the cross. More information about this can be found here, but in the mean time you might find it helpful to take the time to read Ecclesiastes once or twice before we begin together with it.
  3. Details of our Lenten and Easter services are now available here.
  4. We will have another of our hymn-learning sessions after worship on Sunday March 3.
  5. For those interested in doing some preparation to hearing the readings for this coming Sunday February 17, see the commentary links here. Matt Julius will be with us again as guest preacher.

 

 
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