Author Archives: Paul Inglis

About Paul Inglis

Paul Inglis is a long time member of the Uniting and Anglican Churches in Australia. He recently retired as the Community Minister for Dayboro and Mt Mee Uniting Churches, just north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He accepted an invitation to become the Queensland's first Uniting Church Community Minister and continued in that role for more than 10 years. Previously he had been a State primary school teacher, school principal for 11 years and then Lecturer in Education at the Queensland University of Technology for 25 years. He has served on UCA Assembly, Synod, Presbytery and Congregational Councils. In retirement he is actively involved in family, church, and community. His commitment to 'progressive' Christianity emerged from contact with the late Professor Rod Jensen who founded the Lay Forum in 2004 and from his experience in ministry with people seeking an authentic faith. Paul's PhD from the University of Queensland is in Adult Learning.

The Climate Crisis – An Opportunity for Which the Church was Born

by Dr Richard Smith

Sermon – All Saints Floreat UC, Perth, Sunday, 13th September 2020

Old Testament Reading
Ecclesiastes – Epilogue
(Trans. Lloyd Geering),
New Testament Reading

Matthew 19:16-24 Rich Young Ruler

The Moral Challenges of Climate Change

In 2007 the Prime Minister declared Climate Change to be ‘The Greatest Moral Challenge of our Generation’. At the time, I was working in Indonesia on the application of Satellites from Space to detect the illegal clearing of rainforests for our much-loved Palm Oil. It was part of an Australian plan to buy Carbon Credits under the Kyoto protocol to offset our nations emissions. We were part of a United Nation program called REDD for Reduction in Emissions by Deforestation and Degradation for which we developed the satellite technology. The Indonesians balked at its implementation and the REDD initiative collapsed into a seeming ‘Murder Mystery’. What had collapsed were the religious values of honesty and integrity – the vital social pillar of sustainability.
Five years ago, Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si – ‘On Care for our Common Home’,
called on all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action” to address the
Climate Crisis. In 2017, the national Synod of the United Church of Christ in America (of the Congregational tradition) passed a motion naming the climate crisis as “an opportunity for which the church was born”. Our WA Synod employed environmentalist, Jessica Morthorpe to lead our young people into this brave new era with her five-leaf program of sustainability.

These were encouraging signs.

Our Jewish scriptures tell us of the moral crises faced by the Hebrew people; of escaping slavery in Egypt, building a United Kingdom under King David and rebuilding their nation after the Babylonian conquest and exile. These three historical streams, evolved into the great Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Separate, was the Wisdom stream of writings, recording not history, but human experience and knowledge from which we are still gaining insights into the human predicament. It is in this stream scholars place the authentic parables and sayings of Jesus.
From this Wisdom stream, Science from the Latin scientia to Know, would emerge, leading to the discovery of the Earth as a unique self-creating entity, with life developing by Evolution through processes of chance and human purpose. This new way of seeing Earth, is called Nature (from the Latin – natura for birth). As I celebrate entering my 78th year, I reflect on my own origins, resulting from the romance of my parents and the act of good luck of being conceived in the middle of WW2.

The first lesson we learn from our Scriptures is the importance of Sustainability. In Leviticus 25:23 The Lord reminded the Hebrews ‘… the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. For Aboriginal people: ‘The Land owns us, and not we the Land’, reflecting their sacred duty to care for the land and hand it back in the same condition in which it had been given.

A year ago, we were reminded of this truth of sustainability when some 6 million young
people worldwide protested at the inter-generational inequity of global warming. These
protestors were our grandchildren’s generation who will see the end of the 21st Century and the full fury of climate change, unless we act. Jesus reminds us that ‘the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these’ (Mark 10:13-16).

The second lesson we learn is from Ecclesiastes to ‘Stand in awe of Nature and do what it requires of you. For everything we do Nature will bring to judgement …whether it be good or evil’. Nature’s Laws exist to maintain the integrity of life on Earth and show no mercy – for example if we defy Nature’s law of gravity, we will come off the worse for wear. If Nature’s laws are disobeyed, we are warned we will suffer the consequences for 7×7 generations (Gen 4:13-15, 23). But, Nature as Jesus reassured his disciples also offers us unlimited generosity and mercy through the gift of life, means of sustaining it, and enriching it with unlimited beauty and love (eg. Matt. 6: 25-34). Such Wisdom of seeing God in Nature resulted in Dutchman Baruch Spinoza in the17th Century, being banished from the Jewish Community and declared a Heretic. Albert Einstein who believed in Spinoza’s God, recognised the mutual importance of Science and Religion saying: ‘Science without Religion is Lame and Religion without Science is blind’. He also said ‘God is a Mystery, but a Mystery that can be understood’.

A third lesson we learn from scripture is the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, fundamental to both Judaism and Christianity (Exodus 20:2–17 and Deut. 5:6–17) and the ethical cradle of Western Civilisation. On coming to Jesus, The Rich Young Ruler understood these commandments in their prescriptive form, but Jesus told him the principles they embodied, required him to share his wealth with the poor (Matt. 7:12). Climate Change is a similar dilemma. It is caused by the lifestyle of the Rich like us, without realising that the climate impact of our emissions falls disproportionally on the Poor on the other side of the world. Therefore, most of us probably have no sense of having a moral obligation to reduce our emissions.

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Fingerposts to Greatness

A Gift of Encouragement – a work of individual possibility.

by Max Dodd

A sample of this work. If you would like to read the whole publication, send an email to Max to receive a free copy…..maxdodd23@gmail.com

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT….as we begin
We are all masterpieces of the very highest order. We are all
geniuses and heroes. We are all the possessors of qualities of
brilliance. We are told we can be anything, do anything and
have anything. All this is utterly true and yet we fail daily to
meet any of these standards. Our lives are limited and shallow
and our experience bleak and restricted.
What to do?

Let me ask you a further question. Imagine that tomorrow is
your birthday and that it is a neat 100 years since you first
appeared as a screaming bundle of urine and faeces. No one
can answer the question “Did you lead a totally complete life?”
honestly and say “I did.” The honest answer that should be
given is “I did not do everything but I have had a very rich
varied and diverse life of great challenge and much
accomplishment and I pass beyond satisfied that to the extent
possible I have made the most of my time.” One of the
definitions of “success” is that the individual met God’s inner
compass. If you could say that, you can say probably as much
as you can.

A Gift of Encouragement is an operation here to assist you on
the very personal journey of living that may make possible
your providing the answer set out in the last paragraph. It is
concerned only with you as an individual. It is not interested
in social solutions or business solutions or religious solutions. I
simply want you to be able to say that you made the most of
your time and that the world probably gained something by
your being here.

This is a work of individual possibility. It is interested only in
what individuals can do. It is recognised that human beings
are social animals and that there is an underlying cosmic
architecture of unity that is propounded so effectively by the
Eastern spiritualities. This is not however a work seeking
religious conversion or the adoption of an arcane system on
which to build one’s life. It is interested in the dignity and
worth and freedom of the individual and in that individual’s
enormous, if often almost totally undiscovered, genius and
brilliance. The only disappointment in life is that you did not
try – or try hard enough. This is a work of guidance on action.
There are people who are motivators who can offer individuals
recognition of their power to find for themselves careers and all
that falderal of the world of business and commerce. There are
people who will assist as life coaches whose function will be to
ensure that careers are more fully developed than might
otherwise be the case. There are people who can offer support
when the demands of life and the complexities of the workaday
world become too much. Whole professions exist in aid of our
growth and yet the general simple principle of growth and
possibility is rarely offered as one united and simple approach.
This work is intended to do just that. By doing so, it is offering
the highest view of any individual to be and to do and to have
– and perhaps, most importantly, to become.

A Gift of Encouragement is a thoroughgoing approach to the
total development of the total being, physical, intellectual,
emotional and, of course, and most importantly, spiritual. It is
interested in your total journey to wholeness and full
functioning. It is concerned to ensure that you recognise that
the journey to wholeness is of you alone and that nothing really
can be done for you. I can discuss with you as an impartial
(and if you wish, highly partial) adviser all manner of the
questions of your life but the fundamental will always be that
you must lead your own life and that you must take a total
responsibility for it in all its dimensions. You are you and that is
a fact to be celebrated.

What is set out are many brief commentaries on the journey to
wholeness which are based on a worldwide contact with
people in all manner of places and activities. The questions
that are dealt with are those that have been met in practice and
relate to the concerns that are most commonly thrust at us. The
guidance is therefore very broad and not remotely concerned
with detail. The detail of your life is of you and for you and not
for anyone else. That comes not from our lack of interest or
concern but our determination to ensure that the advice we
give can be given a suitable application to the dilemmas and
challenges of life in such a way as will give maximum benefit
to that most important of all individuals, you.

Read on and be blessed and enjoy the Adventure.

Request a free copy from Max Dodd

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Hope More Abundantly

Maxwell Dodd has kindly gifted his writings to us and this is a sample – where Christianity meets Buddhism.

I felt as a youth as long ago as the 1950s that what I was hearing on Sunday night in a fashionable Anglican church on the North Shore of Sydney was less than sensible.   I had little doubt that the God of the service was being very inadequately presented though I kept my questions to myself.    In 1989 after a very successful career in Sydney in the law where I was a litigation solicitor and the senior partner of a three office city and suburban practice with surprising gifts as a “rainmaker,” I went to the (Presbyterian) San Francisco Theological Seminary and met my own guide and encourager the Revd. Professor Warren Lee (with whom I exchange even now emails almost daily).   Warren’s advice was not to seek an Anglican ordination – he saw the institution to be far too conservative for one who had been so accustomed to high levels of accomplishment – but to wander as a “bodhisattva” – a term I understood with my Buddhist enquiries – and bring “hope” to a wider world.

Hope More Abundantly is a series of essays written over the last 15
months in Germany and Scotland. It reflects my concern that the
triumphs of Evangelical Christianity have done great harm to the
Church and to its message. I am sure that the widely trumpeted
interest in the apparent certainties of “Bible believing” creedal
positions is finally the road to a perdition of irrelevance.
As Paul observes in the final verse to the 12th chapter of his first
Epistle to the Christians in Corinth, there is a better way – agape –
“love” or “charity” or “compassion” or even “fellow-feeling” – in
short, the equal other. Difficult, yes, and calling for courage, yes,
but it is the Way – and all spiritual traditions agree on it. The Other.
Read on, and give and share and surrender yourself to the other –
and be deeply blessed.
Maxwell Dodd
St. Goar (Rh), Germany
Thursday 12 September 2013

A word to begin with….
We are blessed with endless potential to lead full and constructive
lives. So few of us do. It is the duty of the Christian to lead a life
worthy of his call; again, he or she fails signally to do so. Pursuing
that vision is the source of this work.
A few weeks short of my 70th birthday, I feel constrained to offer
some thoughts to the man or the woman in the pew of any age on
the wisdom that has led them to be sitting there.
I do not see Jesus in the conventional Evangelical Anglican way. I
am a child indeed of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in far off
Australia, a diocese well-known in the Anglican Communion for
the rigorousness of its Evangelical opinions. I have to confess that
even as an early teenager with a vision of what I shall be calling in
this little work “the Eternal,” I was singularly uncomfortable with
what was being offered. Energetic presentations based on man’s
“sin” and his need of “salvation” and the substitutionary death of
Jesus left me quite cold. I was sure that we were of an accessible
Eternal of unimaginable immensity (in all necessary departments)
to which we were (perhaps unexpectedly) personally important but
that we had to seek forgiveness of these mysterious things called
“sins” astonished me. I saw the Eternal at night in the scope of
what lay above my head in those remarkable pin-points of light
that we called “the Universe” and in the utter acceptance that I
knew from an adored smooth-haired fox terrier bitch of impeccable
pedigree who shared so much of my life and who listened so
patiently to all my questions. She still wagged her tail and wanted
to share my bed and have me throw a tennis ball. For that vision of
simplicity in the order of the Creation I am deeply grateful. The
journey of the years since has been one of a long and at times
difficult confirmation of something of astonishing beauty and
clarity.
My awakening began in the southern winter of 1961 when I met the
remarkable Wednesday mid-week ministry of St. Stephen’s
Presbyterian Church in Macquarie Street in Sydney. The Revd.
Gordon Powell (and a string of major international clergy from
both the United Kingdom and the United States – I recall hearing
the famed Norman Vincent Peale) preached to an overflowing
congregation of those working in the local surrounding banking
and professional area of all that was positive and constructive. It
was a Christianity that sent us (nearly 2,000 people we were told)
back to the workplace revived and strengthened by the support of
an involved God in the minutiae of committed daily commercial life.
For nearly four years Wednesday by Wednesday I experienced a
view of Jesus which inspired the searcher to seek growth and
challenge with the utmost vigour. My eyes had been opened.
By 1963, I was 21 and nearly through the professional course of the
law conducted under the Legal Practitioners Act, 1898, (as
amended) of the State of New South Wales in the Commonwealth
of Australia. I was a capable examinee more than a good student
and I was to finish the course and be admitted as a solicitor at 22 –
even then very early, now impossible. I knew little of the law but I
had convinced one or two barristers of my good memory of
essential material and of my capacity for regurgitation. Such was to
be my sole formal tertiary education.
In 1963, too, I was becoming aware from what I was reading in The
Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney’s only broadsheet newspaper itself
owned by a prominent Anglican family) of the work of an Anglican
bishop in England, one John A.T. Robinson, who had written a
highly controversial book called Honest to God. When later in that
year I should have been studying for the then forthcoming Torts
and Crimes examinations of the Board in October, I was retiring to
my bedroom (accompanied by my fellow student) and instead of
reading of negligence or homicide or larceny and the procedures of
enquiry and enforcement, I was wrestling with the utterly new and
unexpected notions of “the Ground of our Being” and “the Beyond
in our Midst,” terms which were remarkable and slightly
frightening to me. I found the work difficult – I had no familiarity
with theological discourse – and the language at times virtually
impenetrable. I did however realise that there was a revolution
taking place abroad in the way highly intelligent people were
daring to look at the questions of God and meaning and especially
how the message of God and Jesus ought to find its way to the
consciousness of the churchman or churchwoman. I found this so
consoling and struggled on in the assurance that the light would
come. It did – my explorations were themselves the wisdom of the
Eternal.

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Theo-poetics and the magic of the ordinary

‘BLESSED BE THE UNDONE:
Theo-poetics and the magic of the ordinary’
with

Rev GLYNN CARDY

Sunday September 27 @ 3:00pm – 4:15pm


JOIN PCNV ZOOM MEETING by clicking on the link below just before 3:00pm

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89881887828?pwd=V2hyWkQ1SjF2QXVOOVBxSWNNUEZhZz09

Meeting ID: 898 8188 7828
Passcode: 021679

Rev Glynn Cardy is a noted poet whose work contains strong threads of spirituality and commentary on the human condition. He is well known for his provocative billboards, making statements on social justice issues, which he displays outside his churches.

Glynn will invite us to reflect on some of his poetry, which will be sent to all PCNV members and friends a week before the event. 

Glynn says, ‘I love the sea, the sand and the surf.  It has sculpted my soul.  I like talking to groups of children because their responses are never predictable or boring.  Their capacity for imagination has not been checked. They are therefore capable of seeing the expanse of god without being able to give it a name.  I want to tell folks that they’re special, exhort them to be kind and generous, and encourage them to enjoy the great variety of people in this world.  If we get those things right everything else tends to follow.’

Glynn is a minister of a progressive Presbyterian congregation (St Luke’s) in Auckland, New Zealand.  For some 30 years he was an Anglican vicar, serving in a variety of Auckland parishes, the last being St Matthews-in-the-City.  So denominationally he’s bi-religious.  Theologically though he’s on the edge of both denominations.

Glynn has a strong commitment to social justice, and the parishes he has served in have been at the forefront of denominational change in regard to indigenous land rights, LGBTI ordination and marriage, and in seeking to address poverty.

Glynn is married to Stephanie (a paediatrician), and they have four adult children and two cats.


 There will be Q & A after the presentation.
Feel free to share this event with interested friends.
This meeting is at no cost.
Further information email: info@pcnvictoria.org.au

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A Spiritual Science Interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas

Raul Valverde

Concordia University, Canada

Scientific GOD Journal | July 2020 | Volume 10| Issue 4 | pp. 277-285
Valverde, R., A Spiritual Science Interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas


Abstract


Spiritual science tries to merge science and religion. The humankind is always evolving and what was called before religion becomes science in modern times. The Gospel of Thomas, written in the second century teaches that salvation is through the words of Jesus and not through his death and resurrection which are never mentioned. The gospel does not contain cross, suffering, healing, miracle stories or exorcisms. The gospel teaches that salvation comes from the perfection of the individual. The article gives an interpretation to the Gospel of Thomas from the Spiritual Science perspective that empowers the individual as capable of understanding his true nature and relationship with the creation. The gospel reconciliates Christianity with Buddhism as
it teaches that reaching enlightenment is the only way to escape the material world.

To read this article go to: Spiritual Science where a full text PDF can be downloaded.

The purpose and mission of Scientific GOD Journal (“SGJ”, ISSN: 2153-831X) are to conduct scientific inquiries on the nature and origins of life, mind, physical laws and mathematics and their possible connections to a scientifically approachable transcendental ground of existence – we call “Scientific GOD.” By “scientific inquiries”, we mean building concrete and testable models and/or hypotheses connected to hard sciences (e.g., physics, neuroscience, biochemistry and physiology) and doing the experimental testing. We believe that in this golden age of Science the GOD in whom we trust should be spiritual as well as scientific. Indeed, since we are all made out of the same subatomic, atomic and genetic alphabets, the scientific GOD each of us seeks should be one and the same whatever our race, religion and other differences. There is also a Scientific GOD Forum available.

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THIS IS THE TIME TO BE SLOW (POEM)

Source: Progressive Christianity Aotearoa

John O’Donohue’s poem


This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

© John O’Donohue


Excerpt from his books, To Bless the Space Between Us (US), Benedictus (Europe)
Ordering Info: https://johnodonohue.com/store
Co. Clare, Ireland

From johnodonohue.com
“John’s legacy directs our search for intimacy to crucial thresholds: tradition and modernity, past and future, life and death, the visible and the invisible world. At the heart of John’s awakened beliefs was the premise that ancient wisdom could offer desperately needed nourishment for the spiritual hunger experienced in our modern world. John is fondly remembered by an international readership as one who could blend critical analytic thought with imaginative evocation, enabling people to release themselves from the false shelter of the familiar and repetitive to become agents of transformation and change.”

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On Violence by Bernard Brandon Scott

Brandon Scott is the author and editor of many books, including The Real Paul: Recovering His Radical Challenge and The Trouble with Resurrection. A charter member of the Jesus Seminar, he is chair of Westar’s newly established Christianity Seminar. He served as chair of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as a member of several SBL Seminars including the Parable Seminar and Historical Jesus Seminar. He holds an A.B. from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, an M.A. from Miami University, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

Violence is violence, but we are always trying to parse it some other way. We try to divide it into good violence and bad violence. Into good wars and bad wars. Medieval theologians even developed the notion of a just war versus an unjust war. The parsing has always been difficult because we want to see the violence we use as good and the violence of the other side as bad. The winners inevitably see their violence as good, even justified, and actually very heroic. That’s why statues are set up to honor conquering war heroes. The heroic statue makes the violence used good, legitimate, even necessary.

This parsing of violence is intriguing. Theoretically we all agree that violence is bad. But what about self-defense? Well, of course, one can defend oneself when one is being attacked. But how much? How much violence is a proportionable response? Can you shoot to kill the unarmed burglar who invades your house? Once you start splitting hairs, it will not be long until you end up counting angels on the head of pin. Where to stop, where is the line? This is always a much more difficult problem than it first appears.

One way to solve this problem is to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate violence. The government exercises legitimate violence; violence by non-government entities is a crime. When a government kills, the act is presumed to be legitimate. To challenge that legitimacy, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim of illegitimacy. We have seen in many instances how difficult it is to make that case. When a nation goes to war, even under the slimmest of pretenses, for example, the War in Iraq, the majority goes along with the leader. We have seen over and over how difficult it is for a jury to convict a policeman of charges of unnecessary force during an arrest.

When a civilian kills someone, it’s murder and then we sort out the degree, from self-defense to first degree murder. While the accused is presumed innocent from a legal point of view, juries often have a hard time making this assumption. The old canard that where there’s smoke, there’s fire often wins the day. Interestingly Roman law made a presumption of innocence. In the middle ages, in the West guilt was presumed.

Most people and all governments are comfortable with this division and for the most part do not question it. Except when we see a policeman murder a black man on video. Or when peaceful protesters are attacked or provoked by the policing force. Then the whole parsing of violence gets called into question and becomes very controversial.

For the rest of this article go to: Violence

The Westar Institute is the home of the Jesus Seminar which is dedicated to:

  • communicating cutting-edge scholarship on the history and evolution of the Christian tradition to the public
  • raising the level of public discourse about questions that matter in society and culture.

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A Question to the NCLS

Recently Rodney Eivers wrote to the National Church Life Survey people questioning the combining of “Mystical” and “Supernatural” as one category in their research:

Dear NCLS Research

Thank you for your Research News  with its update on various matters including the planning for the survey in 2021.

In reading your Research News, I find I am disturbed that you should combine Mystical with Supernatural as one category. I would see them as being quite separate phenomena. Mystical may apply as far as I am aware to a number of mental states and expressions of consciousness.  This can have a powerful effect on the human psyche but still remains something rational and developed during the evolutionary process. Supernatural, however, I presume, means occurrences beyond the laws of nature as we know them. Behaving in accord with supernatural  suppositions would be regarded by thinking people, I imagine, especially in this 21st century, as being irrational. I am aware of many writers who would, while classing themselves as mystics, not consider they were operating irrationally.

I write this with deep concern about the implication from your surveys that religion and Christianity,  in particular,  comprises the supernatural belief as well as the mystical,  to be valid.                                                                                                                                                                    Rodney Eivers –  UC Forum  http://www.ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au/

He received the following courteous response:

Dear Rodney,

Thank you for taking the time to express your views with us.  

We have used this particular form of wording for many years as it has been used in other international surveys.   This has given us benchmarks of changes over time.  We will reflect on whether there are other options that can achieve this goal of being able to compare with other groups. 

You may also be interested in our more detailed academic work on mysticism among church attenders.  UK colleagues used data from church attenders to reflect on the links between mystical experiences and emotional wellbeing.  In short, the study found no relationship between having mystical experiences and negative wellbeing.

Francis, L. Powell, R and Village, A. (2020). Mystical experience and emotional wellbeing: A study among Australian church leaders. Journal of Beliefs and Values.

Mystical experience and emotional well being

Kind regards,

Amelia Vaeafisi, Administrative Assistant, NCLS Research

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Faith and Science

Ps Karen Sloan from Wembley Downs Uniting Church, Perth has kindly shared her recent presentations on Science and Faith. There are four messages in this series.

  1. How the God Story spoke to a Scientist
  2. How the Science Story can speak to People of Faith
  3. What about Jesus? What about Us?
  4. What the Future Holds

“God is a mystery, Jesus calls us to this mystery, science documents that mystery. A mystery we may never fully understand or explain.  But one we feel deeply is true.”

Karen Sloan

About Wembley Downs UC

This is a place
– where you can meet and worship with people of all ages and backgrounds as well as enjoy a range of activities;

– which helps give adults and children an appreciation of the dimensions of life and the values by which to live;

– which has a contemporary understanding of the Christian faith and a non-literal understanding of scriptures;

– which provides a caring and supportive community which tries to take seriously that we are all loved by God and directed by Jesus to love one another.

Wembley Downs Uniting Church – A place for radical Worship and a place for Radicals to Worship

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Book Review: A Long Time to Wait!

Ascension – Heaven On A Cloud

By Rev Dr Walter Stratford

I found this explanation of The Way of the historical Jesus as it contrasts with the evolved orthodoxy of the Church to be one of the best conversations I have found on the topic. Stratford brings the notion of Ascension into focus and places the literal and often confused thinking around it under scrutiny. The result is both interesting and remarkably informative.

“I think a Jesus way may be claimed in all actions that open ways to life, or enable healing, or challenge one to reconsider attitudes. It becomes visible amid compassion and justice. It becomes visible when people find safety in their habitat and live without fear. It becomes visible as one imagines a Jesus who continues to touch the lives of all – a feeling of spirit presence.

“The church’s focus on a mythic future has failed to catch up with the Jesus who continues in the world touching with compassion those who are hurt.” p41.

The focus on salvation religiosity has clearly failed humanity. It is not the way of Jesus.

There is a particularly interesting analysis of the evolution of the term/concept ‘Son of God’. The part played by the Roman Empire in the shaping of the Church is important to this development. A religion of the State was essential to the flourishing of the empire. The Emperors has become ‘gods’ because they shaped the prosperity, peace and security for their followers. Becoming deified was a natural outcome of empire building. With the support of the scriptures (OT), in particular the Psalmist and the David dynasty as a model it was not a big step to view God as father of the emperor. The widespread acceptance of God as father of the Jews contributed to the church’s adoption of the notion also and the evolution of ‘son of God’ to ‘Son of God’ eventually took precedence in accepted doctrine.

The gradual development of ‘orthodoxy’ shaping the Church and the establishment of the basis for the beliefs set out in the faith is essential reading for those wondering how we got to the current church informed way of Jesus. This book is full of standout analyses of how the Christ of faith “had become supreme for the church’s life with the Jesus of history receding into the background”. So the religion of the Emperor Constantine with all its governance, structure and appearance was ratified by the Church and still stands today across denominations very much in tune with the thinking of the 4th Century view of the will of God.

Three elements – claims of authority of the bishops, the authority of the OT and the memories of those who recalled the apostolic times now take precedence in shaping the Church.

I agree with the author when he says:

I wonder what might happen in the world if the words of Jesus the Sage were given serious attention, and what it would mean if the church began to live and teach a reality named as the reign of God. The reality might come to life in the present. Life on earth would not be a shadow of better things to come, but a recognition among humankind that the future is present now. p71.

Instead of waiting for Jesus to return on a cloud, responsible engagement with the present can call into action our own gifts directed to implementing the way of Jesus for all of humankind and the planet.

Paul Inglis 24th August 2020.

Currently the cheapest way to get a copy is directly from Wally Stratford. However Kindle copy can be purchased from Amazon.com

The Author: Rev Dr Walter Stratford is a retired Uniting Church Minister who served in such diverse places as the New Hebrides, Traralgon, Townsville and Dandenong. He also spent time as secretary to the Queensland Ecumenical Council, and as a chaplain at the Wesley Hospital, Brisbane. During his ministry Walter found time for study and completed a number of degrees, including a PhD in 2012. He is married with four adult children, a number of grand children and great-grandchildren. Wally has been a discussion leader for the PCNQ in Brisbane and hopefully will do that again when restrictions on gatherings are lifted.

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