Monthly Archives: November 2019

MtE Update – November 28 2019

  1. This Sunday we will have another of the new ‘sermon reflection‘ sessions after morning tea, this time on the recent preaching from the book of Timothy. The five sermons in the series can be found via the series post or in one download here. If you’re able to come bring:
    • A question about something you heard
    • A comment about something more you’d like to hear
    • Any other comments on your experience of hearing or reading these sermons
  2. Advent Study at St George’s Travancore – The study will be conducted on the first three Mondays in Advent (December 2, 9, and 16), and will be based on the book, But what if she’d said ‘No’? by Cathy Laufer. The studies will start at 6:30 pm and take about 90 minutes each Monday, with the venue to be finalised in the next week. Participants are requested to bring some food to share. It is not necessary to have read the book, nor to have purchased a copy. Interested people are asked to contact Richard Murray at by November 29 – please include contact details (phone and/or email).
  3. THIS SUNDAY December 1 we will hear set RCL readings for the Advent 1A: the readings are here, with some commentary available here.

Advance Dates

  1. Sunday December 1 – Responding to the 1 Timothy series: a ‘sermon feedback’ session after morning tea 
  2. Mondays December 2,9,16 – Advent Studies at St George’s, Travancore
  3. Sunday December 22 – Advent Readings and Carols (with Eucharist)
  4. Christmas Day – 9.30am service (with Eucharist)
  5. Normal service times Dec 29 and through January

MtE Update – November 22 2019

  1. THIS SUNDAY November 24 will be a service of readings, psalms and hymns around the theme of the Reign of Christ to wind up the liturgical year (Advent beginning the following week!).
  2. Last week a number of us learned a new hymn which will feature in the service this Sunday. This rendition makes the point, ignoring the chanted bit in the first 15 seconds (which we’ll not include!). The verses are straightforward but it might help to familiarise yourself with the male/female voice ‘echo’ in the refrain.
  3. There will also be a congregational meeting this Sunday November 24 following worship, to receive the proposed budget for 2020 and a proposal for focusses for ministry and mission over the coming year. Papers are available in the church or via the email circular.
  4. Advent Study at St George’s Travancore – The study will be conducted on the first three Mondays in Advent (December , 9, and 16), and will be study is based on the book, But what if she’d said ‘No’? by Cathy Laufer. The studies will start at 6:30 pm and take about 90 minutes each Monday, with the venue to be finalised in the next week. Participants are requested to bring some food to share. It is not necessary to have read the book, nor to have purchased a copy. Interested people are asked to contact Richard Murray at by November29 – please include contact details (phone and/or email).

  5. The latest News from the Justice and International Mission Unit (Nov 20) is here.

Advance Dates

  1. November 24 – Congregation meeting (2020 budget approval and ministry and mission focusses)
  2. Sunday December 1 – Responding to the 1 Timothy series: a ‘sermon feedback’ session after morning tea 
  3. Sunday December 22 – Advent Readings and Carols (with Eucharist)
  4. Christmas Day – 9.30am service (with Eucharist)

November 24 – John Knox

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.

John Knox (c. 1514-72), reformer of the Church

 Almost everyone has an opinion about John Knox. His character has been the subject of long and bitter controversy. To some he is the apostle of truth, the fearless warrior of God, a great hero of Scotland, and the founder of the Protestant Church; to others he is the architect of evil, a rabble-rouser, the father of intolerance and the destroyer of the old and beautiful. The poet Matthew Arnold quipped that there was more of Jesus in St Theresa’s little finger than in John Knox’s whole body.

Carlyle, the Scottish historian, rejected the conventional caricature of Knox as a gloomy, opinionated fanatic, describing him as a practical, patient and discerning man. Robert Louis Stevenson perhaps comes close to the truth: “He (Knox) had a grim reliance in himself, or rather, in his mission; if he were not sure he was a great man, he was at least sure that he was one set apart to do great things.”

While opinions about Knox’s character may differ widely, there is more general agreement as to his legacy. For good and for bad Knox set his stamp upon the Scottish Reformation. While it is no longer popular to speak of Knox as the “hero”, or the “maker of the Scottish Reformation”, his energy, courageous faith, and single-minded determination gave the reform movement a purpose and direction that marked it for all time.

Above all, Knox was a preacher: this was the source of his power and influence. He called himself God’s mouthpiece, a trumpeter for the Word of God. He believed himself to be “called of God to instruct the ignorant, comfort the sorrowful, confirm the weak, and rebuke the proud, by tongue and lively voice”. His preaching was often lively, volatile, and violent.

His first sermon at St Andrews (1547) declared that the lives of the clergy (including the Pope) were evil and corrupt and that the Church of Rome was “the whore of Babylon”. At the Reformation Parliament in 1560, his powerful preaching on Haggai contributed to the Parliament’s action in abolishing papal jurisdiction and approving a confession of faith as the basis of belief in Scotland.

Knox was not a systematic theologian. His ideas, however, though not particularly original, have had a long-term influence upon Scottish thought. Apart from one theological work on predestination, almost all of his surviving works (six volumes) are polemical tracts written in response to specific circumstances. There are, however, three defining works of the Scottish Reformation in which Knox had a major hand—the Scots Confession of Faith (1560), The First Book of Discipline (1560), and the Anglo-Genevan Book of Common Order (1556–64), also known as “Knox’s Liturgy”. The Confession embodies the true spirit of the Scottish reformers. It is a typical Calvinistic document, and is simple, straightforward, frank, nationalistic, revolutionary in sentiment, and fiercely anti-Roman. The Confession sets forth three “notes” by which a true church could always be distinguished—the true preaching of the Word, the right administration of the Sacraments, and ecclesiastical discipline uprightly administered. Due to the Confession and Knox’s influence the Church of Scotland became Calvinist rather than Anglican, and after his death became Presbyterian rather than episcopal.

The Book of Discipline provided for the enforcement of moral discipline, the recognition of five classes of office bearers—superintendent, minister, elder, deacon, and reader—and for the organisation of the Church into courts known as Kirk Session, Synod, and General Assembly. (Presbyteries came later.) The Book of Discipline advocated universal compulsory education and relief for the poor—ideas well in advance of their time. Although the Book of Discipline was never authorised by Parliament, it nonetheless helped to mould the life of Scotland for centuries. It is commonly believed that the Book of Discipline helped produce a race of people who admired discipline and honest work, valued moral integrity, and prized education.

Knox was not always tactful and diplomatic. His conduct in politics was fumbling and uncompromising. In public and political life, he was his own worst enemy. His hatred of Catholicism, his dogmatism, his invective sprinkled with his favourite adjectives—“bloody”, “beastly”, “rotten”, and “stinking”—made him many enemies and alienated some of his friends. His tract, The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558), a violent diatribe against Mary Tudor, asserting that government by a woman is contrary to the law of nature and to divine ordinance, earned him the hostility of Protestant English Queen Elizabeth and persuaded many Scottish Protestants that Knox was a liability to the fledgling reform movement. Knox’s reasoning from nature and Scripture for the exclusion of women from power was not unusual for his time; what was extraordinary, however, was his call to the English to remove their Queen by whatever means necessary. The First Blast was, essentially, a call to revolution, a justification for armed resistance.

Of all Knox’s writings, the most brilliant is his History of the Reformation of Religion in Scotland. This began as a record of events of the Scottish Reformation of 1559–60, but during Mary Queen of Scots’ short reign, it evolved into a long sermon on Scotland’s covenanted status and the folly of breaching God’s law by tolerating a Catholic sovereign.

A constant theme in the History is the absolute necessity of avoiding idolatry, which Knox identified specifically with the Mass. He believed Scotland (and England), like ancient Israel, were bound to promote and defend “true religion”.

Late in his life Knox wrote: “What I have been to my country, albeit this unthankful age will not know, yet the ages to come will be compelled to bear witness to the truth.”  History seems to have vindicated Knox.  The role he played in the upheaval of the sixteenth century is of prime importance to our understanding of the church and Christian theology today. Knox not only helped to establish the Church of Scotland; his teachings formed the basis of Presbyterian theology as it developed in Scotland and elsewhere.

William Emilsen

17 November – Where God’s Presence Goes

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Pentecost 23

Isaiah 65:17-25
Isaiah 12
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-9

Sermon preached by Matt Julius

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

It begins in a temple. Where the wind meets the sea.

Where light and dark, sea and sky, water and earth, are set in their place.

Where there is a place for buying animals, and a place to sacrifice them; a court for Gentiles, and a court for Jews.

It begins in a temple.

It begins in a temple. Filled with the breath of life.

Filled with lanterns to guide our path; teeming with fish and birds, creatures of kinds beyond kinds, and our humanity among them.

Filled with conversation in the marketplace, teaching and prayer, devotion and piety and praise.

It begins in a temple.

And God was there. Where the wind meets the sea. Filling it all with the breath of life.

But then the world of order descended into chaos. There was a war, and wars after wars. And the Jewish people lost. Placed under foreign occupation, sent into exile, returned … placed again under foreign occupation, and eventually crushed.

And the temple?

Years upon years, history has marched on. The temple mount in Jerusalem remains in ruins, the site of bitter conflict … and creation is on fire. The teeming life of fish and birds is at risk; the sea is reclaiming the land; our places of worship are literally and metaphorically crumbling; from where will the prayer and praise and devotion come?

The temple has been torn down.

Is God there … anymore?

“By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

These are the words of Jesus that we are left with at the end of today’s Gospel reading. Our Gospel reading recalls the culmination of the defeat of the Jewish resistance by the occupying Roman army: the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This defeat continued as the Jewish religious movement which would become Christianity began to spread throughout the empire. Moving from the temple to houses, this new movement was met by persecution as it grew.

Luke’s Gospel does not recall these stories of defeat, destruction, and death as memories of long ago. Rather, the Gospel gathers contemporary experiences into the prophetic words of Jesus. Like all good prophets Jesus is not a seer who peers into the future, but is a voice calling out what is true behind the veil of history and the present world.

The words of Jesus pierce through the intervening years between Jesus’ earthly life and the communion of Luke’s audience as the Spirit-filled body of Christ.

Luke’s original audience knew what it meant that they met in a house, no longer able to worship in a destroyed temple. They knew what it meant to be members of a movement where their spiritual siblings were being killed. And so when we step back to see Luke’s Gospel alongside Luke’s other work, the book of Acts, we can see how the text tells the story of Jesus, while also structuring the story to make sense of the experience of early Christians and catch them up in the ongoing work of God in the world. The Gospel of Luke begins and ends in the temple; and the book of Acts moves from the temple to a house, and then to the furthest reaches of the world.

What is at stake in Luke’s two-volume work is nothing less than the coming to fruition of Isaiah’s vision of a new creation. When we step back to see how Luke takes us from the temple — which served as a symbol of God’s heavenly palace — to local places of worship in houses, to the ends of the Earth, we begin to see how Luke compresses the biggest stories Scripture has to tell into the person of Jesus.

Whether we are talking about creation and new creation, God’s promised liberation of Israel, the reconciliation of all nations or the tender presence of God to those who worship, Luke brings these all together in Jesus himself — it is telling, after all, that Luke’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to the very first human, adam, and ultimately to God.

What holds together the cosmic vision of Isaiah, the destruction of the temple, and the endurance of the persecuted is the central thread of God’s presence in the midst of hardship.

God is present in Jesus as he walks the road to the cross.
God is present with Isaiah in the midst of exile — sustaining the hope for a renewal of creation and the return home.

God is present with the first audiences of Luke, as they formed new communities in the face of persecution.

We should be wary of too easily reading our experiences back into the ancient texts we call Scripture. As if the concerns of a church in modern urban Australia can be simply read into the wise reflections of writers in the Ancient Near East. As if the experiences of people under foreign military occupation, facing exile and persecution, can be identified with our situation. In our situation we find ourselves members of a religious movement that has significantly shaped the majority culture of our colonial society.

This wariness about reading our situation back into the texts of Scripture is not simply a reflection on the incongruence, or implausibility of connecting our direct life experiences with those recorded in Scripture.

At the heart of what it means to receive Scripture is precisely to be bound in some sort of continuity with the people and communities that gave us these texts: to

see our God in their experiences of God; to see our experience of the Spirit in their experience of the Spirit.

In other words, what makes Scripture so central, what makes our sacred texts so vital to the life of faith isn’t that our lives look like the lives witnessed to in these stories. But that our God is reflected in these stories, the same Spirit we encounter breathed these words into being. This is to say, we should read Scripture not to find ourselves, but first of all to find and be found by God.

It is from the centre point of an encounter with God, who we meet fully in the person of Jesus, that our connection with one another here, and our connection with the writers and first audiences of these texts opens up. What binds us together as a community of faith across time and place is not that we share an old book, but that we share the living presence of the same Spirit, and the same Risen Christ. It is Christ and Christ alone, by the power of the Spirit, that constitutes our unity.

At the end of it all, what should strike us about the talk of calamity in our reading from Luke isn’t simply that it gives voice to the experience of some Christians, though this is important. Rather, the talk of calamity prepares us for the coming betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus.

The promise of God’s presence in the midst of difficulty is assured because God in Christ willingly goes into the midst of hardship. God chooses to be present even among the crucified, even among the dead. Because of this fact, that Jesus is present even where we think God cannot go: into the place of death beyond life, we are assured of God’s presence wherever we are.

The centre point of the cross gathers the calamities experienced by the faithful through time and place, it gathers the experiences of persecution into the experience of the one who is himself God. And from this centre point opens up a tomb, the place of death, and from it comes life; and cascading from the risen Christ is the outpoured Spirit which remains with us.

Not a book, or a building. It is this Spirit which remains with us, makes Christ present for us. Which calls us out to seek the God who creates new life out of death, and gives life to the whole of creation.

Because God acts in Christ to go where we once thought God could not go, we are assured of God’s presence even in the midst of calamity. It is this act which creates the new temple: us, you and me. It is this Spirit who forms us into the body of Christ.

Even as the sea is reclaiming the land; and our places of worship crumble, still we can say:

And God was there. Where the wind meets the sea. Filling us all with the breath of life.

MtE Update – November 14 2019

  1. Following worship THIS SUNDAY November 17 there will be another of our hymn-learning sessions.
  2. Sunday November 24 will be a service of readings, psalms and hymns around the theme of the Reign of Christ to wind up the liturgical year (Advent beginning the following week!).
  3. There will also be a congregational meeting Sunday November 24 following worship, to receive the proposed budget for 2020 and a proposal for focusses for ministry and mission over the coming year. Papers are available in the church or via the email circular.
  4. ‘The Bible in My Head’ is our current project in ‘with the children’ time in worship. Last week we thought up 4 visual prompts to remind us of the first four books of the Torah — Jeans (Genesis), Exit (Exodus), Lever (Leviticus), Numbers (Numbers!). We now need thinking caps on for a visual prompt to remind of ‘Deuteronomy’ to round out the first section of the Old Testament.
  5. ‘Illuminating Faith’ is an MtE ministry in service of the wider church; have a look at recent additions to the suite of resources now available.  There have been over 1600 downloads for the various studies and orders of services in the two years they have been on offer.
  6. The latest Synod eNews (November 8) is here.
  7. This Sunday we welcome again Matt Julius as our preacher, looking at the set RCL readings for this week. 

Advance Dates

  1. Sunday November 17 – Hymn-learning session after morning tea
  2. November 24 – Congregation meeting (2020 budget approval and ministry and mission focusses)
  3. Sunday December 1 – Responding to the 1 Timothy series: a ‘sermon feedback’ session after morning tea 

10 November – Of fanaticism

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Pentecost 22

1 Timothy 6:1-5
Psalm 145
Luke 20:27-38

In a sentence
The fanatic knows and mis‑takes; the believer is known and finds peace in this

One of my all-time favourite little quips by a theologian is from Gerhard Ebeling: “Theology is necessary because [the human being] is by nature a fanatic.” This little remark has exercised me somewhat recently.

Ebeling is almost certainly right here. Yet, correct – and cute – as the comment is, in the hands of fanatics themselves it quickly becomes something like ‘we’ need theology because you are fanatics. The ‘we’ is intentionally inclusive – for theology must ‘include’ – but the ‘you’ is quite exclusive: you are fanatics and this theology will tell you why.

If course, this won’t work because it indicates what we already know: that fanaticism just as much springs from theology as it might be treated by theology. The word ‘fanatic’ springs from a Latin word for ‘temple’; the fanatic is en‑thusiastic, filled with God (from the Greek en theos – ‘in God, God within’). Ebeling, then, is correct but uselessly so. The problem is not the absence or presence of thought about God but the quality of that thought. And the quality of our thoughts about God is always hidden from us. This is signified by a crucified Christ: ‘oops’…

Some of my thinking about Ebeling’s remark has been in relation to the fanatics the Pastor deals with in the letter to Timothy, of whom we have heard a little this morning. Yet, their particular mistakes aren’t so important here as the fact that the Pastor does not offer much good argument over against them. His approach is narrowly credal: here is the true faith, asserted without engagement. Orthodoxy agrees that the Pastor is correct but his failure to engage with his opponents leaves him himself open to the charge of fanaticism, and illustrates the problem with Ebeling’s explanation of the need for (good) theology: all theology borders on the fanatical.

In our gospel reading today we hear something rather more engaging, if we are not distracted by the form of the question put to Jesus. That form is a challenge about marriage and resurrection, put to trip Jesus up. If a person is legally married multiple times before death – which is common enough – to whom is she married in the resurrection?

Jesus’ response is first clever and then rather shocking: marriage doesn’t really matter much in eternal life. The life lived in God’s restored kingdom is oriented toward God and not toward the history which has led up to it.

This is surely troubling. The argument for life after death is won at the expense of the life we might have valued before death and look forward to continuing in eternal life. And it cannot only be marriage that is affected here. What Jesus says affects also parent-child relationships and friendships and even enmities. It affects our greatest achievements, and our worst. This doesn’t make such life experiences unimportant but it does relativise them, and starkly.

In fact, Jesus’ point is less about marriage or resurrection than it is about how the things of the world are related to the things of God. Marriage is a part of our present experience of time. Yet our experience of time and God’s experience of time are as radically different as if it were the case that the bonds of marriage could be broken. Or to put it differently, the difference between our experience of the world and God’s experience of the world is the difference between life and death.

What has this got to do with fanaticism – whether explicitly theological or in its more ‘secular’ forms?

The fanatic gets hung up on marriage, or resurrection, or life, or death, or the nation, or race, or youth, or health, or money or any other thing we value, as things in themselves. The Sadducees separate both marriage and resurrection from the reality of God. Marriage is ‘a thing’, and resurrection is a thing and God, too, is a thing, each in themselves. Against this, Jesus refuses our division of ourselves into parts with their own intrinsic value. Everything is finally relative to – oriented towards – God.

The fanatic requires that our experience becomes God’s experience. From here, my faithfulness – as I understand it – becomes God’s obligation to honour me. And so I know what God’s future looks like, or can’t look like. For the Sadducees, the divinely sanctioned series of marriages of their highly tragic serial widow means there cannot be a resurrection.

The fanatic requires that our experience becomes God’s experience. It’s part of what we do in gathering in this place to suspect that we all might be fanatics of this sort.

What hope do we have if we must believe and act and yet know also that we might find good reason later to repent of our creeds and actions? How do we both know ourselves to be right and know ourselves to be wrong?

While the fanatic requires that our experience becomes God’s experience, hope is found in the promise of the reverse: that God’s experience might become ours. This promise is the word of peace brought by the risen Jesus.

God’s experience is quintessentially the impossible mismatch of the source of all life dying on a worldly cross. Here good and evil coincide, the Word marries flesh. But God’s experience is also that the cross is God’s own, and not only worldly. The cross, then, becomes a lively place, despite all appearances. It was set up by us as a final word, yet God makes of it the beginning of a conversation.

That conversation runs something like this:

“Here is your final word,
be it your marriage or your divorce or your singleness;
be it your pride or humility;
be it your greed or generosity;
be it your fear or confidence;
be it your grief or happiness;
be it your life or your death.

“And here am I, God, taking those things and making them my own.
And when I make them my own, I fill them with life.

And I give them back to you, that I might be all in all, and that you might know the peace which passes all understanding.”

The fanatic knows that he understands, and expects peace to drop out of understanding’s equation. My future with God can be calculated.

The true child of God knows only that she is understood – comprehended – and loved nonetheless. It is a mystery how this could be so, but peace is peace, even when we do not understand it.

There is much to comprehend, much to argue, much to fight for, much to testify to, much to grieve over… We wed ourselves to many things and make them our own.

And yet, the argument and the struggle and the testimony and the grief are finally God’s, and God will overcome. This is the mystery, the secret, of our lives.

In the resurrection, whose wife shall the much harried and fanatically married church be? She will be Christ’s wife: peace beyond all understanding.

3 November – God’s blessed rage for disorder

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All Saints

1 Timothy 3:14-16
Psalm 149
Luke 6:20-26

In a sentence:
The ‘piety’ of Christians always joins them to the broken world, and never separates them from that world

Working constructively with 1 Timothy in our reading over the last couple of months has proved more of a challenge than I expected – certainly more than was the case with Hosea and Ecclesiastes earlier in the year. This is partly because the Pastor – the writer of the letter – doesn’t say much I, at least, find especially interesting. With a couple of important qualifications, there is nothing wrong with the letter but that in itself doesn’t make it enlivening or even necessary.

The principal theme of the letter is summarised in our snippet from the middle of this morning’s short text: ‘how one ought to behave in the household of God’ (3.15). In this connection the letter expands on how bishops and deacons ought to conduct themselves, and women, and widows (apparently a kind of religious order), and elders and slaves, and Timothy himself. All of this is directed towards ‘a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and dignity’ (2.2).

And who would not want this: a community carefully ordered so that all know and prosper in their station?

And yet, this might also be characterised as what a poet once called a ‘blessed rage for order’, ‘blessed’ in the ironic sense of ‘damnable’ (Wallace Stevens, ‘The idea of order at Key West’). There is a rage for order which seems to be required – which seems to be blest – but which may finally be blesséd – cursed.

For alongside the Pastor’s encouragements we have texts like today’s beatitudes (or ‘blessed-s’) from Luke. Luke’s beatitudes differ starkly from Matthew’s, in that they seem to allow a stark identification of the groups blessed or threatened by God, according to economic and social categories: the poor, the sad and the powerless, over against the rich, the happy, the powerful.

But we’ll allow Luke his own take on things and notice instead the contrast between the order of the world in Luke and that of the Pastor.

While the Pastor is right that there is a virtue in good order, his rage for such order must be held in tension with the blesséd disordering which is the work of God Godself.

Where the Pastor will have it that a woman will not speak in the orderly Christian assembly, Luke allows for a God who disorders and makes her the means by which God will be heard. Where the Pastor will have it that the upright bishop or deacon will be all good things to all good people, Luke allows for a God who does not need such good order, a God through whom even poverty or grief or brokenness might yet be blessed.

The kind of life to which the Pastor calls us is a good one, and rightly commended. Yet such life always carries the potential of the error of the morally and religiously upright. We heard of this last week, when Jesus contrasted a Pharisee and a tax collector together in the temple. There the self-contained and orderly religious hero poured scorn on the one whose righteousness, or order, could only come from God.

Against this, Luke’s beatitudes present the righteousness which can only come from God. This is not foreign to the Pastor although he doesn’t make much of it (perhaps apart from the biography of Paul himself [1.12-17]). At the end of our short text today we heard again doxology which has been part of our Great Prayer of Thanksgiving over the last 5 or 6 weeks.

The translation is not straightforward. We heard ‘great is the mystery of our religion’. In fact ‘our’ is not in the Greek, and ‘religion’ can also be translated ‘piety’: great is the mystery – or great is the ‘secret’ – of piety. This mystery or secret is Christ (or God – also unclear in the Greek) ‘manifest in flesh’. The secret of piety is God in the messy midst of ‘flesh’ – God in our messiness.

At the heart of Christian confession is this rage for a new order out of disorder, even ‘in’ disorder. The holy life is not simply ‘in the household of God’, as if holiness could limited only to that place. The life of holiness is ‘in the flesh.’

Among ‘the saints’ the temptation is great to separate themselves –those who are saved from those who are not, those predestined from those not, those who know from those who do not, those who have from those who do not. This temptation, of course, is not merely a Christian one. The same rage for the same kind of order is heard each day in school-yard bullying, on talk-back radio, across the chambers of parliament, in the bombs rained down on distant enemies or carried into their midst in backpacks. This is a purity which atomises and isolates, the purity of ‘holier than thou’.

But a piety which begins with God manifest ‘in the flesh’ disrupts the order of the pure and separated. It is no ‘holier than thou’ but ‘holy for thee’. This is a holiness which makes holy, which brings ‘value’ to other things, other persons. Such value – true holiness – is only ever received; holiness is always gift.

The holy, saintly life is certainly one of action, and so is properly about ‘how to behave in the household of God’. Yet it is always first an activated life, activated by the God who would be manifest even in our unholy lives.

Unholiness’, then – ‘unsaintliness’ – is that attitude or orientation which will not receive or give such ‘value’, which will not be disrupted or disrupt orderings which seek to constrain God.

Jesus himself was both an ordered life such as the Pastor describes and the presence of God’s own blessed disorder. Blessedness is turned on its head – or not; when this God is the source of holiness, we can never know quite how orderly we are. We can only know that, in the end, it will have been God who has set us straight.

To worship this God is to give thanks that God meets us wherever we are, for, in the end, the household of God is the whole wide world.

To worship this God is to be willing to be drawn forward from where we are to a new and better place, and to be willing to call and draw others there with us.

So, saints of God, lift up your hearts, and see what God does with you.