Epiphany – Gideon’s Light

Where did I put ..

Have you ever had a moment where you were trying to find something really important, but just could not find it?  As you search your memory, it can feel like you are trying to hold onto fog.  You try to grasp it but it falls away.  You work hard to trigger your memory retracing steps, flipping the couch cushions, checking your pockets.  You tidy the house up as you search for this really important thing.  After awhile, you just give up, sit yourself down and try to let it go.  But you can’t!  As you sit there your brain keeps running, you start to hope that something will magically appear in your mind and you will suddenly find clarity.  The minutes begin to feel like hours that drag on.  You pull a friend or loved one into your darkening abyss as you try and sort out what happened, and where it has gone.  Then, in the middle of the dark of night, after you have finally let go and resigned yourself to embracing futility, failure and disappointment, you spring out of bed, go to your coat pocket, and there under who knows what, you finally feel them in your hands.  Your keys!  Your beautiful wonderful keys.  You have them and used them all the time, but somehow these valuable things are lost, forgotten and miss placed in the course of everyday life.  They are always in the last place you look.

The reading from Isaiah says , “For the yoke of their burden, and bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors, you have broken as on the day of Midian.”  This last sentence from Isaiah are the lost keys to understanding what is going on from our passages this morning.

Day of Midian

This cryptic reference in the last line of Isaiah gives us a clue to understanding what all three readings use in their reference point of ‘the day of Midian’.  If you were a first century Jew, you would immediately understand the reference.  It would be like someone saying, ‘we were shocked like on 9/11’.  The emotions, circumstances and turmoil comes to the forefront of our minds and we immediately understand what is being shared.  This is what is going on with ‘the day of Midian.’

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Advent 3 – “It is what it is….”

“It is what it is” – this is the favourite saying of my regular golfing partner whenever we walk down the fairway after a good long drive each and then, to our dismay and frustration, we discover our balls have bounced off into the rough or into the bunker (I know you Canadians say “trap”). Before any expletives can come out or any words you would not expect a priest to utter, Rheal booms out the famous words “It is what it is”!

And in his own way this is what Jesus is telling the disciples of John the Baptist in our gospel reading this morning. They had been sent by John from his prison cell where, I am sure, he was mystified. He had been so certain Jesus was God’s chosen one; yet surely The Messiah, coming to bring God’s judgment, would by now have taken control and vanquished the opposition? John has heard of miracles of healing and teaching about loving your enemies, tales of a man who does not fast as a pious Jew should and who consorts with Gentile sinners as a pious Jew should not. Doubts have crept in; can this really be The Messiah?

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Why bother coming to Church? – Reign of Christ

What are we doing?  Why are we gathered here?  Is there not a better use of our time like… sleeping in, or making breakfast for a loved one, or getting caught up on the project that never seems to be done?  Would cleaning the house be a better use of your time than coming here … to church … most Sundays?

There are times that I think all of this.  It seems like a strange thing to do, to come to church doesn’t it.  And this is coming from a person trying to make a career out of it!  Perhaps a better question is this:  Why do you come to church?

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Remember Dacau – Remembrance Sunday

Sermon 13.11.16 Remembrance Sunday

Some of you may not know that before I entered the priesthood I was a police officer at New Scotland Yard in London. For many years I worked in the European Liaison Section in Special Branch, liaising with other European Police Forces on anti-terrorism and security matters. Because of my degree in German I was sent to do a six week attachment in Germany with the Federal Police (in German Das Bundeskriminalamt) in their headquarters in Wiesbaden in 1982.

I had been working on an assignment with a German police colleague in the Munich area and before we headed back to Wiesbaden we decided to visit some tourist spots. At one of these we got out of the car in the car park, turned right and there facing us were the dreaded words over the gate “Arbeit macht frei” – work makes you free. It was Dachau Concentration Camp. The next couple of hours were some of the most moving in my life and have left an enduring impression in my memory. When we entered the camp we first of all went into the administration block where they had all the displays, videos and grim statistics and photographs of what had gone on there. The first camp to be built by the Nazis when they came to power in 1933, Dachau was constructed to house 5,000 prisoners. By 1945 when it was liberated by The Allies there were over 206,000 in the camp. Over 41,500 prisoners were murdered between 1933 and 1945, including over 2,000 priests and thousands of Nazi political opponents, notwithstanding the Jews, Jewish sympathisers and Romany gypsies and homosexuals. There were descriptions of the horrendous lives and deaths of the prisoners and all sorts of other horrors including the living conditions of the prisoners in the bunkhouses.

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The Resurrection Matters

Out of all my body parts I feel like my eyes are in the best shape.  I do at least a thousand eye rolls a day.  This is how I imagine Jesus dealing with the Sadducee’s from today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke.  Oh look, the temple leadership is here trying to trap me again.  Oh boy, I will out with them one more time.  Part of the reason I imagine being a bit exacerbated is because of what lies behind the exchange and is at the heart of our God.  Jesus came to usher in a new way of life and to usher in the Kingdom of God in the here and now.  Both of these things require that we pay attention to the way we see the world we live in.

The Sadducee’s were the people who ran the Temple in Jerusalem.  They are the official community leaders in politics and faith.  They are the priests.  They are the governors.  They are expected to administer the rites and rituals of the temple, talk with the ruling Roman government and help them rule.  It is expected and assumed that they understand and correctly interpret the Torah, their Bible.  In short the Sadducee’s are the Authorities for the Jewish people. So why does this group of people constantly trying to trap Jesus in saying or doing something he shouldn’t?

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Practical Compassion – Way of Life

Based on Colossians 3:12-17, Psalm 145:1-10 and Matthew 14:13-21

Practical Compassion – Way of Life

Have you ever had a really bad day?  Not just another run of the mill bad day, but one where someone really close to you was rushed to the hospital and had suddenly died.  I have in the last week and so did Jesus.  This kind of thing sits in the background of the Gospel reading here today.

Jesus was having a ‘bad day’.  He had just received news that the person who most understood him, his prophet and cousin John the Baptist, had been hideously murdered in order for a lustful king to keep a shallow promise.  Jesus was floored with this news.  The emotions that flooded him would have been overwhelming.  Like many of us would, Jesus just wanted to get away.  This is why he was getting on a boat.  He wanted to be in a secluded place all by himself to grieve the loss of his cousin.  For him this is alone, on a boat, in the middle of the lake.  We have experienced a time where the world feels like it is heavy and washes over us like a tidal wave.  In these moments all we want to do is to get away and perhaps be alone with God.

The trouble is people kept following Jesus and made this impossible for him to have his alone time.

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Practical Compassion – Empathy

Readings: Samuel 2 12:1 – 15 and John 7:53 – 8.11

This morning we resume our 4 week course on Practical Compassion after a break for Thanksgiving last week. You will remember that Ian preached on the various different aspects of the subject in the first week and that 2 weeks ago Margaret taught us all about how to develop our listening powers when counselling others. I’m now going to talk about how we use “empathy” and how to advance it as a skill in our practical compassion armoury.

So, what is empathy? Some people think it is the same as sympathy and, while they are very close, they are definitely not the same. As we shall see in our session afterwards the dictionary definitions are as follows:

Empathy – the power to enter the feeling or spirit of others

Sympathy – a sharing in the emotion of others or a feeling for the difficulties or ills of others.

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Thanksgiving 2016

Based on John 6:25-36

There are times where I really like the first disciples of Jesus Christ.  Not because they are the most faithful, educated or heroic, and not because they had the benefit of literally walking beside God’s son, Jesus Christ for years.  I really like how much I can relate to them as good natured people who just missed the point so often.

In today’s gospel reading from John we get a glimpse of the kind of people these first disciples are, and how much they had to learn as they grew into their calling to proclaim the good news

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Practical Compassion – Active Listening

Active Listening         Are you hearing or listening?

Practical Compassion Sermon Series                  Homily 2



Isaiah 6:1-11              Psalm 29                    James 1:19-25                      John 4:7-15


Listening/hearing – they are interchangeable terms aren’t they. We do it everyday, all day. Or do we?


Listening – the thesaurus provided interesting words – attending, heeding, eavesdropping, snooping, pay attention, take note, hang on, pin your ears back, listen in. It then suggested the opposite was ignoring.


Hearing – now here the thesaurus got very interesting – earshot, range, reach, trial, enquiry, inquiry, investigation, examination, consideration, catching, getting, overhearing, perceiving, receiving, understanding, heeding, hearkening, getting, listen to, pay attention to, trying, judging, gathering, learning, understanding. With missing and ignoring as its opposite.

Well, those are quite the word lists aren’t they? And what do they mean to us today? And in light of these scripture passages we have just heard read? Ah now did we hear the word of God? Or did we listen to the word of God?

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Practical Compassion – Beginnings

Matthew 9:35-10:1, Psalm 51 1-2, 11-18, 1John 3:17-24

Practical Compassion: Beginnings

Today we begin our Practical Compassion Sermon and Small Group series.  Beginning today and for the month of October we will explore and reflect on what Practical Compassion means, how listening is imperative, what role empathy plays and how all of this relates to being a disciple of Jesus Christ in the modern world.  Today we begin to explore what we mean by Practical Compassion.  To begin this morning I would like to share a story I found about a birthday party.

Birthday Party for a Sex Worker

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