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.

Rod Bower on Resurrection

Fr Rod Bower, Anglican Parish of Gosford, NSW

Thanks for this reflection Rod

Whether the bodily resurrection of Jesus was an historical fact means little to me, while I respect that it is central to the faith of many. That the bodily resurrection is a theological fact is an essential element of my faith because it affirms the incarnation and the material creation as the vehicle through which the Divine Eternal life is expressed. .
To Proclaim Christ is Risen is to proclaim that the living one is here and now, not a future hope, but a present reality. That the Creator is in creation calling us to be respectful, reminding us that this planet and this life are unique and that we must value every atom of it.
So let us proclaim with every fiber of our being, with heart soul mind and strength and let all creation resound with us.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Link to Rod’s sermon on FaceBook

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Easter Reflection: Dad, why did you go to church?

Richard Smith – Wembley Downs UCA, WA.

My Son asked: Why did you go to Church this Easter?

Good Friday from God’s Friday was a reminder about the Domination Systems of political power that amass wealth at the expense of the poor causing social distress, extreme environmental damage and climate chaos. Jesus is remembered because he pushed back against the Domination System of the Roman Empire which responded by having him publically tortured and killed, a warning to others, do not mess with the system.  Modern Domination systems continue with modern weapons and cyber techniques as the normalcy of civilisation where violence in its many evolving forms is the human choice of resolving difference.

Jesus advocated for the Kingdom of God where everything to be shared, is shared equitably. Gospel or Good News for the poor, but warning to the rich to share their wealth and knowledge. This kingdom was named after God’s image because at Creation it was shared equally among all of humankind (Genesis 1:26), to be experienced as “God is Love” (1 John 4:8).

On Easter Sunday, the Resurrection is the metaphor that despite his untimely death Jesus’ advocacy of the Kingdom of God would live on and be vindicated.  St Paul (AD 53-54)  used the evolutionary concept of a seed being planted and dyeing before new life could emerge to offer the opportunity of an evolutionary step forward or alternatively extinction by a process of self-destruction (1 Cor. 15). The choice is ours to make or ignore, to live or to die, to plant and to harvest or create a dry desert.

Jesus’ advocacy has weaved its evolutionary way through history reducing violence and bringing the peace many enjoy today. The sharing of political power through representative democracy has brought peace and universal systems of welfare, education, health, child care and human rights. But the normalcy of civilisation continues with all the modern forms of rhetoric and force, to reassert its desire for Domination leaving many is distress.

The cycle of such violence in Jesus’ prayer is broken by practising justice, mutual forgiveness and resisting the use of violence (Matt 6 11-13). Violence creates more violence in an escalatory process which is the bible’s the earliest definition of Sin (Genesis 4.6-7). Thus Jesus dies not for our sins, but by dying for his advocacy he exposed the sin of humankind and revealed an alternative way of living for peace through non-violence.

Why then Church? Religion derives from the Latin word religo “Conscious concern for that which matters” for which the people have regularly gathered as the Synagogue, Ecclesia or Church.   One concern of contemporary human consciousness is the social, environmental and economic sustainability of our world and our diminishing ability to hand it on to the next generation in a better condition than we found it.

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Climate Action Petition

Silence is no option – Speak Up For Earth

Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea started this petition to Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and 5 others

A list of candidates can be accessed here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candidates_of_the_2019_Australian_federal_election
You are invited to sign our petition and send an important message on climate action to the next Australian Government.

The growing climate emergency means that we must ensure that climate concerns be given top priority during this Australian election.
Australia needs to elect a government whose members recognise the reality of a changing climate and who can develop credible policies, plans and actions to address this emergency.
The Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea encourages you to email and write to politicians, candidates, and newspapers, and to meet your local representatives.

The petition can be found at – http://chng.it/HXL9TZHhfB

Please note, we ask you not to donate to this petition. Sign the petition and share on social platforms instead. Thank you.

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ITS EARTH DAY: PAY ATTENTION!!

A message presented to the Spirit of Life Unitarian Fellowship at Kirribilli last Sunday by Rev Rex A E Hunt MSc(Hon)

What the kangaroo and the koala are to Earth, we are to the universe… The secrets of the universe are not different from us” (Paul Fleischman)

In a couple of weeks time two celebrations will occur. One is the Christian festival called Easter. A time when the life and death of a Jewish peasant sage called Yeshu’a, is remembered. Jesus’ death mattered to the early storytellers, but only because his life mattered more. And about the cross we can say: for many of the earliest Christians, the cross was about the integrity of Jesus, not about a sacrifice or a divine plan. As a result of the recent religion-led protests surrounding the artwork entitled ‘McJesus’ which displayed a crucified Ronald McDonald, it has become necessary to unpack some of the traditional baggage that has encased the cross in church history. So let me be clear: the positioning of the cross of Jesus as the sacred centre of Christianity was not central to the earliest Christian communities. It has only occurred since the Middle Ages, when it became the object of worship. As a result the symbolism of ‘McJesus’ – as making a point about capitalism and asking us to think about how we have, or whether we have, placed consumerism above the value of life (David Galston 2019) – has all but been lost, due to anti-intellectual piety propped up by fear and religious fundamentalist superstition. There are good and bad ways to think about Jesus. And part of the job of the progressive biblical scholar is to identify how concepts of Jesus have been used destructively.

The second celebration is a more recent one – Earth Day. Indeed, the 49th anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environment movement, in 1970. This year’s theme or campaign is “Protect Our Species”. And the goals of the campaign are to: • Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. • Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats. • Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values. • Encourage individual actions such as adopting plant based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.

As the campaign organisers are at pains to highlight: (i) We are amidst the largest period of species extinction in the last 60 million years. (ii) Habitat destruction—in the past 200 years we have seen 75% of our Australian native habitats destroyed or degraded by human activity—exploitation, and climate change are driving the loss of half of the world’s wild animal population. (iii) Forty percent of the world’s bird species are in decline, and 1 in 8 is threatened with global extinction. (iv) Worldwide bee populations are in decline, including the honey bee and many wild native bees. On all this, and others, the available data is multilayered and complicated. While existing studies may not be perfect, for a host of environmental factors, we would still be wise to heed the warnings contained in those studies. oo0oo Science is the grand narrative we construct to make meaning out of the mystery of existence. In the world of science, the most widely accepted modern estimate of the Earth’s age is approximately 4.5 billion years.

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Hope that demands action

A message presented to the congregation at St Andrews UC, Creek Street, Brisbane yesterday by

Dr Mike Pope,

Professor of Environmental Mission, Missional University, Ethos Environment Coordinator, Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society

A sermon on Romans 8:19-23 preached by Dr Mick Pope at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane, April 7 2019.

Introduction

I’d like to begin by thanking you for the invitation to speak to you this morning. But I also have to have to brag at your expense. For those who follow Rugby Union, the Melbourne Rebels were up here a couple of weeks ago and beat the Queensland Reds. There is something else Victoria beats you at, although I am less proud to speak about it.

We had our hottest summer on record, along with four other states. However, as a consolation prize it was your hottest January on record, with rainforest damaged by fire, and record breaking rains in Townsville. All of this consistent with long term warning trends, and the warmest Australian summer on record. Now I know that some in the churches are unwilling to accept that climate change is real, but I want you to suspend your disbelief if that is you and come along on a journey with me.

Recently, roughly 150,000 Australian school kids participated in the school climate strike, and I attended during my lunch break in support. I was very proud of them. The strike is an expression of their anger at politicians on both side of the spectrum, whom they believe are not delivering enough on climate change. This generation is growing up in a different climate to the one you and I have, and they have fear and anxiety about the future.

When I went home, a friend of mine who writes for Eternity News, a Christian website, asked me to jump onto their Facebook page and answer some of the comments on a piece they had published. The article spoke about two Christian schoolgirls who had attended the strike. After 45 minutes of responding, I was despondent and had a stress headache. There was so much outrage, with comments of ‘fake news,’ poorly understood science, and poor theology.

What would you say to the youth of today? Particularly those within the church? Do you respond with denial, or simply say that God is in charge and not to worry about it? How does the church become more pro-active and less ­re-active on climate change?

Our text for this morning reads

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Straight off the bat, Paul is making two big theological statements that say ‘God is in charge’:

  1. God has subjected creation to futility
  2. God will set it free

So doesn’t that wrap it all up? Can’t you say ‘Mick, there’s no more to say, just sit down?’ We I think that this passage begs three questions.

  1. What is the nature of this futility?
  2. How will creation be set free?
  3. Is there anything we can do?

So let’s look at each of these questions in turn.

1. What is the nature of this futility?

It is best to start at the beginning. If ever like me you have tried to read the bible from cover to cover, you would have started with Genesis. We learn about the beauty of creation and its great blessing, and human responsibility in Genesis 1-2. In Genesis 1 we learn that to be made in the image of God means to be fruitful and multiply, and subdue the earth, which means to engage in agriculture and feed ourselves. In Genesis 2 and verse 15, we learn of our vocation to care, tend, and keep the earth. We have an intimate relationship with the soil, the pun from the Hebrew being humans from the hummus. And then in Genesis 3, it all goes pear shaped, or better still apple shaped. Our relationship with the soil becomes cursed. We see the same thing at end of the book of Deuteronomy where Moses warns the people of Israel to remain faithful. Human disobedience leads to broken relationships with the soil.

So the subjection to frustration in Romans is due to the fact that God has let us run it – and what a fine job we’ve done of polluting the air and water, cutting down trees, warming the climate, and killing all the animals (60% of all living things in less than 50 years).

In Rome, Paul could also see the devastation that human misrule brought. He could see the regular silting up of the Tiber River because all of the trees had been cleared, and it needed to be dredged regularly. Although Paul and the ancients did not understand this, this swampy ground was the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. In 452 AD, those brave Huns were afraid to enter Rome because of the bad air, or malaria. There is evidence to show that malaria was one of the factors that was involved in the collapse of Rome. The air quality was also poor. Philosopher and Senator Seneca (4BC – 65 AD) wrote that

“No sooner had I left behind the oppressive atmosphere of the city and the reek of smoking cookers, which pour out, along with clouds of ashes, all the poisonous fumes they’ve accumulated … I noticed the change in my condition at once.”

Paul was making an observation then not in the abstract, but in the particulars of how Roman misrule produced damage to the world around him. In Romans chapter 1, he identifies the root of these problems, that we make idols out of things like wealth and power. Reformer John Calvin identified the heart as an idol factory, and Paul would agree, and link that idolatry to damage to creation.

In our day, Pope Francis notes in the encyclical Laudato Si’ that “the present ecolog­ical crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity.” In other words, the worship of progress, technology, consumerism and individualism, which may have once been done in ignorance, is now done in full knowledge of the consequences for our world, God’s good creation. This is recognised both within and outside of the church. Environmentalist Gus Speth says “The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy … to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation … we scientists don’t know how to do that.” But we in the church do! We know about repentance. What is needed by the church is to join the dots between sin and repentance with issues of the environment.

2. How will creation be set free?

The answer to my second question, how will the creation be set free, is found in verses 22-23.

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Creation is suffering now in birth pains, but that suffering will one day give way to joy. Any woman here who has carried a child will know what this is like. I can remember watching my own wife with her distended belly, it getting hard to get comfortable at night. But the suffering is all worth it when a child is born. What Paul is saying is that creation is longing for the resurrection of the dead like a pregnant woman groans for the baby to come out. Renewed humanity at the resurrection means a renewed relationship with the Earth, and not the abandonment of it. Christianity is not just about going to heaven when you die like some Christians believe. Anglican theologian Tom Wright has said that heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world. The future of us and the future of the creation are entangled together.

What this means is that we have a message of hope to offer the world. But what does that mean for the here and now?

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Can a Christian be a Politician?

PCN Explorers at New Farm, Brisbane (Merthyr Road Uniting Church, Brunswick Street, New Farm.)

Wednesday 1st May

10am for Morning Tea – 10.30am start.

Speaker: Everald Compton

Some information about Everald who I am sure you have heard on radio on many different topics:

Everald is an elder in the Aspley Uniting Church and a Research Fellow at Per Capita, a progressive think tank.  He is a veteran of ageing and infrastructure policy, and has advised every Australian Prime Minister since Robert Menzies. (among many other roles) https://everaldcompton.com/about/  

 This talk and discussion will be during the lead up to the Federal Election. It will not be a time to tell anyone how to vote, but I am sure it will raise some issues to inform our decision making on who to vote for.

The first in the series of “Christians like us” has just been broadcast on SBS. Maybe part of our thinking is informed by what we understand as “Christian”. Did you watch it?

Your RSVP will be helpful for planning morning tea and for knowing how many chairs we need to have out. We will be meeting in the Church building, not the hall where we usually meet.  We would also be appreciative of your donation of a few dollars to cover the cost of morning tea and a contribution to the church for the use of the premises. As an opportunity to continue the fellowship and have further discussion on this or any other topic, some of us plan to have lunch at Moray Cafe just down the street. Everyone is welcome. “>RSVP to Desley

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Easter Reflection: Resurrection repeated every day in our lives

Don Whebell

Reading: John 20: 1-18

She had gone there to anoint a dead body – who has stolen it? She finds it easier to believe in the night-time antics of grave-robbers than in the night-time antics of a God who refuses to let death have the last word.

The Easter story begins with someone who many had written off as a lost cause: Mary Magdalene. When she reaches Jesus’ tomb she finds that the stone had been rolled away…

When Peter and the Beloved Disciple hear her story they immediately head for the tomb – and we have a great marvellous action-picture of the Easter jog! The Beloved Disciple [his name was John] seems to be a better sprinter than Peter. He reaches the tomb first, looks in to see the cloths lying about …and waits for Peter, who catches up and goes straight in as you would expect of him!

The climax of the Story is the Beloved Disciple following Peter in. He sees the same evidence as Peter does – and more: he sees more than discarded cloths: he sees with the eyes of faith what this means.

            His is a love that sees through the dark.

One of he features of The Gospel According to John is a specially-mentioned love between Jesus and one of the Twelve. The Beloved Disciple is presented as the ideal follower of Jesus, the one who sits closest to him at The Supper, the one who stands at the foot of the Cross. Now in running to the tomb on Easter morning, the urgency of his love gets him there first, and he is the first to believe.

And some days later, when Jesus stands unrecognised on the lakeside, it is the Beloved Disciple who informs Peter: “It is the Lord!”His is a love that gets him there first.

In celebrating Easter we rejoice in the light that darkness cannot dim; we celebrate the God who raises Jesus from death and calls us from death to life.

We bless God for the faith that challenges us to see more in others as we respond to them with the grace and love that has touched and changed us.

It means that we take a part in the sufferings of the Risen Crucified One And take part in God’s protesting against the violence and suffering in the world… the violence and suffering that too often is accepted as an inevitable part of life in the world. Death is not just a fate that we meet at the end of our lives. We see death around us in the midst of life.

In that Easter Faith we catch a glimpse of the Messiah who makes us friends with each other because he has made us friends with God. The challenge of Easter is to understand the history of human suffering… and to understand the histories of our own sufferings… in the light of Jesus’ resurrection.

In an Easter sermon, theologian Jurgen Moltmann says:

            “Death is an evil power now – in life’s very midst.It is the economic death of the person we allow to starve…It is the political death of people who are oppressed… It is the noisy death that strikes through bombs and torture…It is the soundless death of the apathetic soul.”

To accept this litany of death as inevitable is to deny the power of the Resurrection for today. Resurrection faith faces the cross and protests against the finality of that violence on Calvary Hill. It calls us to see as God sees: to act as so many people have chosen to do when, with enormous courage, they refuse to worship the powers of darkness that use suffering and death to gain and keep power.

The Resurrection is a proclamation that this hanging, suffering outcast is the living Son of God, who cannot be held in the grip of death.

The truth that God raised Jesus from death gives hope, healing and health    to all who need that miracle to be repeated in the midst of a world that is cruel, harsh and empty of love.

We are convinced that God’s work continues: for we have been grasped by the words of the One who again and again says to us: “I am Resurrection    and I am life.  Those who trust me,  though they die,  yet shall live…”

We can catch something of the reality of the Resurrection when the light of new life bursts in upon us in the midst of the darkness of despair and hopelessness. We see it in hospital wards where nurses hug people back from death to life. We see it in the women and men who risk their own lives protesting against the dark, mindless violence inflicted by their fellow human beings. We see it in the disciples of Jesus who see in the dark what no one else sees.

For all this, we will rejoice. It is Easter in our midst. It is the refusal to accept that anyone should be left for dead. Listen – again – to the Basis of Union:

Paragraph 4:

Christ who is present when he is preached among people is the Word of God who acquits the guilty, who gives life to the dead and who brings into being what otherwise could not exist. Through human witness in word and action, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ reaches out to command attention and awaken faith; he calls people into the fellowship of his sufferings, to be the disciples of a crucified Lord; in his own strange way Christ constitutes,     rules and renews us as his Church.

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Eugene Peterson – a tribute

Don Whebell

Eugene Peterson wrote over 30 books. My library includes Peterson’s Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and The Praying Imaginationa Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society The Message Bible: The Bible in Contemporary Language, and The Daily Message.

Books especially for Ministers:  Working the Angles, Five Smooth Stones, Under the Unpredictable Plant, The Unnecessary Pastor, Run with The Horses. 

I often turn to these books for timely inspiration. Peterson’s lectures and courses are still available for download from Regent College Book Store.

Eugene Peterson’s most remembered Christian contribution will be The Message Bible. The Message Bible is not a direct translation or paraphrase, it was written in the words of Peterson: “for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.’”

For me, Eugene Peterson’s contribution to Christianity is on par with C.S. Lewis and JB Phillips’ paraphrase of the Bible. Peterson’s interpretation of Galatians 3:1-5 puts his style, legacy, and passion for Christ in clear unvarnished prose. Here it is:

“You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you?

Have you taken leave of your senses?

Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives.

His sacrifice on the Cross was certainly set before you clearly enough. Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin?

people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing?

It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?”

Eugene Peterson died on 22nd October 2018.   Among his final words were, ‘Let’s go.’ And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently. In such moments it’s best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’

Rev Don Whebell is a former Moderator, Queensland Synod, UCA.

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