Category Archives: Messages

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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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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The Disorder of Dismantling Racism

Richard Rohr has this week delved into the work of Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (Crown Publishing: 2018), 23, 117–118. to comment on something that is a problem evident all over the world.

The Disorder of Dismantling Racism
Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The universal pattern of transformation I’m writing about these three weeks is not limited to religious or spiritual growth. Nor is it only individuals that are invited to make the journey. Whole churches and even cultures experience times of disorder and disruption. In the United States, many of us are discovering that a large number of things we believed to be true—about our nation and ourselves—are not entirely true. I believe this is a necessary step that we must take for the sake of healing and justice in our nation and our world—no matter how “disordering” and even disorienting it may be. Perhaps I can only say this because I believe so completely in the possibility of Reorder! Author Austin Channing Brown, who teaches on issues of racial justice, was raised in a devoutly Christian home and has worked in and with churches for most of her professional life. I hope you can read her words with the openness they deserve.

I learned about whiteness up close. In its classrooms and hallways, in its offices and sanctuaries. At the same time, I was also learning about Blackness, about myself and about my faith. My story is not about condemning white people but about rejecting the assumption—sometimes spoken, sometimes not—that white is right: closer to God, holy, chosen, the epitome of being. . . .

Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It’s not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation?

It’s haunting. But it’s also holy.

And when we talk about race today, with all the pain packed into that conversation, the Holy Spirit remains in the room. This doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t painful, aren’t personal, aren’t charged with emotion. But it does mean we can survive. We can survive honest discussions about slavery, about convict leasing, about stolen land, deportation, discrimination, and exclusion. We can identify the harmful politics of gerrymandering, voter suppression, criminal justice laws, and policies that disproportionately affect people of color negatively. And we can expose the actions of white institutions—the history of segregation and white flight, the real impact of all-white leadership, the racial disparity in wages, and opportunities for advancement. We can lament and mourn. We can be livid and enraged. We can be honest. We can tell the truth. We can trust that the Holy Spirit is here. We must.

For only by being truthful about how we got here can we begin to imagine another way.

Fr Richard Rohr and the Centre for Action and Contemplation have more than a quarter of a million followers. For more of his progressive thinking go to Richard Rohr.

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Freedom through Authentic Spirituality

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, 14th June 2020

Authentic spirituality is always on some level or in some way about letting go. In a consumer society, however, we have little training in how to let go of anything. Rather, more is usually considered better. Jesus said, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Once we truly see what traps us and keeps us from freedom, we should see the need to let it go. As Meister Eckhart said, “the spiritual life is more about subtraction than it is addition.” [1] But capitalist societies make everything into addition.

The freedom Jesus promises involves letting go of our small self, our cultural biases, and even our fear of loss and death. Freedom is letting go of wanting more and better things; it is letting go of our need to control and manipulate God and others. It is even letting go of our need to know and our need to be right—which we only discover with maturity. We become ever more free as we let go of our three primary motivations: our need for power and control, our need for safety and security, and our need for affection and esteem. [2]

Healthy spirituality leads us to true liberation by naming what’s real, what’s true, and what works—now and in the long run. This Ultimate Reality, the way things really work, is quite simply described as love. The wise ones recognize that without a certain degree of inner freedom, we cannot and will not truly love. Spirituality is about finding that freedom. Jesus even commanded it (John 13:34)—though I’m not sure that we really can order or demand love—to show us how central it is.

For the remainder of this article go to: The Truth Will Set You Free

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How Do We Pray In This Crisis?

Rev Dawn Hutchings

Clay Nelson, a colleague in New Zealand, tells a story about a journalist who was stationed in Jerusalem. The journalist’s apartment overlooks the Western Wall which is the holiest site in Judaism. Every day when the journalist looks out towards the Wall, she sees an old Jewish man praying vigorously. One day the journalist goes down and introduces herself to the old man. As a journalist, she cannot resist interviewing the old man. “You come every day to the wall. How long have you done this and what are you praying for?”

The old man replies, “I have come here to pray every day for 25 years. In the morning, I pray for world peace and then for the wellbeing of humanity. I go home, and I have a cup of tea, and I come back and I pray for the eradication of illness and disease from all the earth.”

The journalist is intrigued and asks, “How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for these things?” The old man looks at the journalist with great sadness and replies, “It feels like I’m talking to a damn wall!”

For the rest of this talk go to: Is Prayer Transactional or Transformative?

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Between Faith and Doubt

Ps Karen Sloan, Wembley Downs UCA, Perth

Sermon – Earth Day Thomas Style – Karen Sloan 

Readings –  John 20:19-31                   

Luke 24:13-35 (last weeks)

The Progressive Christian book club, which has been meeting for over 2 years every month, has just finished reading Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas.  A book that takes you on a wild ride through the time of the early Jesus followers, but particularly the time of Paul.  We hear the blood and guts and reality of living in the Roman Empire, and Pauls conversion from a Jewish condemner of those followers to one who himself followed, in vivid detail.  But we also hear the humanity in him, and the other leaders of the time.  Voices from the past include not only Paul, but Timothy, James, Thomas and Onesimus, the freed slave of Phiimon, who is called Able in the book.  We are presented with the variety of understandings of Jesus found even then, near the beginning of our faith tradition.

As Dennis Ryle wrote in his review, we see how leaders and followers negotiate the interactions of Jew and gentile, the Greek cults and Roman tyranny to be fourth generation Christ followers in a challenging world.  Particularly when the expectation of those who thought Jesus would return, bringing in a new heaven and a new earth,went unfulfilled.   

It is not for the faint hearted, and the descriptions of the bloody times, and the barbarity that some would go to, particularly the Romans to keep people in line are shocking.  But also, Pauls struggles with his own desires, and his own need to find faith that speaks to him is also written with energy and gusto.  Ultimately, Paul finds that faith in the Jesus story, but the journey is not easy. 

Many in the book club didn’t enjoy the book, it was difficult to read the full-on pace of the it, and the inevitable descriptions of death and destruction and grief and yes, even doubt, in the first century CE.

Yet others found it insightful, and courageous. I was one of those.

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New Year Reflection: Evolving Church

from Fr Richard Rohr

Brian McLaren
  Summary: An Evolving Faith       A School for Love
Friday, January 3, 2020     Today, friend and CAC faculty member Brian McLaren continues describing the three shifts Christianity needs to make in order to be true to the vision and mission of Jesus the Christ. Yesterday Brian explained the importance of becoming (1) “decentralized and diverse.” Today, he describes the need to be (2) “radically collaborative” and to (3) “love as Jesus taught and embodied.” Rather than a top-heavy institution concerned about in-house salvation, the Christianity of the future will place love of God, neighbor, self, and all creation at the center. Brian writes: The diverse and decentralized movement we need will be radically collaborative, working with, across, and, when necessary, outside of and in spite of existing institutions to seek the common good. It will not be anti-institutional because institutions are necessary for human survival, but neither will it be institutional, in the sense that it is preoccupied with its own survival or bringing benefits only to its members. Rather, it will be trans-institutional, working across institutions, both religious and non-religious, seeking the common good of those inside and outside the movement and the institutions it involves. . . .  The . . . most important aspect of this [new] form of Christianity in the future is simple, obvious, and yet radical: it is about love, as Jesus taught and embodied [emphasis mine—RR]. . . . The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Jesus was about love first and foremost, in word and deed. Jesus began with love for God, but inseparably linked that love with love for neighbor [1], with the understanding that neighbor includes the other, the outsider, the outcast, the last, the least, the lost, the disgraced, the dispossessed, and the enemy. This love for neighbor was, in turn, inextricably related to an appropriate love for self. In fact, to love neighbor as oneself leads to the realization that oneself and one’s neighbor are actually distinct yet inseparable realities. In today’s world, we must add that, for Jesus, God’s love extends to the wildflower, the meadow grass, the sparrow, and the raven. He saw all of God’s creatures as part of one heavenly realm, as did dear St. Francis, and as do more and more of us. When I think of this [new] kind of Christianity of the future, then, I think of a movement of revolutionary love. I see it as distinctively Christian, but not in any exclusive way, because if we truly see love as Jesus’ point and passion, then the depth of our devotion to Christ will always lead us to love our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Indigenous, nonreligious, agnostic, atheist, and other neighbors as ourselves. . . . In this desirable future, every willing Christian congregation makes every competing interest subsidiary to love, which is the fruit of all contemplation and the goal of all action. If we embody this [emergent] form of Christianity, . . .  if we become the seeds of a movement of contemplative activism in the Spirit of Christ, I can imagine hundreds of thousands of congregations, . . . each a locally and globally engaged school of love, teaching future generations to discover, practice, and live in love: love for our neighbor, love for ourselves, love for all creatures and all creation—all comprising love for God, who is all in all in all.  


For more go to: Richard Rohr’s daily Meditation
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Religious Discrimination Bill

From our friends at Equality Australia

This week we celebrate two years since marriage equality became law in this country. A moment of triumph for our community that was made possible by decades of work and millions of Australians standing up for fairness.   But the Prime Minister and Attorney General chose this week, on Human Rights Day, to announce the second draft of their Religious Discrimination Bill. And it’s bad. We’ve only had it on our desk for a few days but wanted to share our first thoughts. Over the coming weeks we will be preparing our analysis, briefing campaign partners, and making sure these changes (and the dangers they bring) are accessible to other people like me who don’t have law degrees.    This Bill impacts on everyone, from sporting heroes to everyday Australians who should be able to live, study, work and go to the doctor without facing hurtful religious views. That’s why we’ve teamed up with notable Aussies Ian Thorpe, basketballer Lauren Jackson and author Benjamin Law, to make a video explaining just how bad this Bill really is. You can watch it here .

There’s a little bit of good news– The government has realised that its healthcare clauses went too far. The new Bill has reduced the types of health practitioners that can take advantage of the conscientious objection in health care provisions. They still apply to workers most likely to be the first line of response for people needing care – doctors, nurses, psychologists, midwives, and pharmacists. It no longer allows these healthcare professionals to refuse treat to specific people. But they can still object to certain procedures. 

Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of bad news. The Bill: 

  • Privileges religious expression over discrimination protections. The Bill removes discrimination protections for LGBTIQ+ people, women, people with disability, and others when people make certain statements which are discriminatory based in religion.
  • Entrenches double standards in law. Religious organisations will be allowed to discriminate against others with different beliefs or no belief, even when providing publicly funded services.  People will be provided protections when they engage in religious activity that breaches local by-laws which we all have to follow. Corporations associated with religious people will be given discrimination protections, while religious schools will continue to be able to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy.
  • Privileges religious views over patient health needs. Even with the changes, Australians will find it harder to access non-judgmental healthcare, such as sexual health, family planning, fertility, mental health and transgender health services, where ever they live.  Professional standards, such as those that require objecting health professionals to refer patients to alternative health professionals who will treat them, may come under challenge. oOo

Request from Rex Hunt

G’day folks,

Does any one on the UCFORUM list subscribe to Westar Institute publication, FORUM?

If you do I would love a copy of the paper “The Ritual of the Hellenistic Meal: Early Christian Everyday Practice as an Exegetical Challenge,”  by Soham Al-Suadi, published in the current (probably still winging its way down under) issue.

Thanks, RAEH 

Reply by email to: Rex Hunt rexae@optusnet.com.au

Hellenistic art, 3rd century b.C. Marble relief with scene of family meal. From Cyzicus, Turkey.

Hopefully there might be someone in our large following that can help Rex find this publication. He has raised my interest and for the interest of our readers –

Soham Al-Suadi develops Hal Taussig’s work on the Eucharist meal as a typical Hellenistic meal, which was a site of “social, political, and religious experimentation.” Like McGowan, Al Suadi sees the origins of the Eucharist meal in the everyday practices of the ancient world. But it is important to understand that even an ordinary communal meal could be the place of transformation. So Al-Suadi examines the earliest account of the Christian banquet from Rom 14:1–12 and looks at what it reveals about Christian identity formation. In essence, Paul was faced with a tension between Jews and gentiles at the table and sought a remedy to the tension between them to “minimize the disruptive state of experimentation.” The decisions about identity made at the meal—on how the menu settles differences between Jews and gentiles—then continue after the meal, influencing daily life. Al-Suadi moves from comparisons to Hellenistic meals to the creation of a new hermeneutical method that combines socio-historical criticism with ritual theory and applies it to portions of Paul’s letters related to the Eucharistic meal. She focuses on several aspects: the terms of identification used for the participants, how the order within the meal ritual influences the interconnectedness of those involved, and what the order of reclining during the meal reveals about group and individual identity. As a result, the exegete becomes acutely aware of how participation in the Eucharist at once provides an opportunity to break or transcend social divisions, reflects the tensions that exist in the larger community, and seeks to resolve their differences in pursuit of forming a new group identity. Most interesting about Al-Suadi’s discussion is her argument that the birth of Christianity was not a singular, remarkable event; rather, it arose from the everyday experience of communal meals, occurring wherever Christianity had taken root.

Paul

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Message: LOVE, JUSTICE and SPIRITUALITY

Rev Dr Noel Preston has forwarded his homily for Sunday 19th May. It is a timely presentation as the Federal Election and political discourse has refocussed many minds on the teaching of Micah … acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly (Micah 6 v. 8. and vs. 6-16.)

It is a message for politicians and for all of us who are deciding who to vote for, as well as a message for the whole population in our individual journeys.

Comments can be left here at “Reply” or directly to Noel.

We have heard the reading from the Old Testament Book of Micah – one of the “minor prophets”, together with Hosea and Amos and part of the book of Isaiah. These prophets were around  8 centuries before the Christian era.  As prophets they were not foretelling the future so much as declaring Yahweh’s judgement on the way the nation was going. In other words they were  speaking truth to power in their own times, a prophetic word of the Lord. Jesus and the Gospels were strongly influenced by these 8th century BC prophets.

Micah was speaking for the poor and spoke as one of them. He is horrified at the luxurious , degenerate and corrupt life of the city, and realises that he and his fellow peasants are paying for it. In another age he might have led a Peasants’ Revolt though his message is more than political. It is about right relating with each other and with Yahweh, their God – interesting challenges the day after a national election!

These days it is rare to hear a preacher announce a single Text to preach on but that is what I am doing today. This text is bracketed within Micah’s declarations  about false worship and a denunciation of corrupt dealings. Let’s look at this text, not in the translation of the Good News Bible we used in today’s reading but in 3 other paraphrases or translations from different versions.

You may know “The Message” – this is how our text reads there:

…..what God is looking for in men and women is quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously…..

And maybe some of us who are old enough have heard of the J B Phillips version of the Bible:

…..For what does the Lord require from you, But to be just, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God…

And now the version I am most familiar with, known as the The Jerusalem Bible:

….This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God….

 It is this latter version which guides my preaching this morning – the words for today (and everyday) are 

Living the Gospel = loving justly, tenderly and humbly

I am going to reverse the order of these injunctions – so walk humbly with your God

Walking – we are all on a journey aren’t we? We don’t know where or how it will end  but we know that, in the company of God who is Love, God’s  Spirit will guide our journey. This suggests a prayerful approach to daily life…..

Walking humbly – that also suggests to me “living by Grace”, knowing that nothing can separate us from the Great Love. Furthermore, we are called to live graciously, sharing that Love unconditionally.

Let me add another thought – walking humbly is a rejection of self-righteousness. We are to be careful of how we speak and think about “knowing or doing the will of God”.

Walking humbly empowers us for the life of love and justice to which the rest of the text points.

So now, love tenderly……

To me, “tenderness” is virtually a synonym for “compassion” . “Mercy” is another like term which some translations of this text use. Practising “mercy” is also about sharing “grace”, again “unconditional love”, which never deserts us even when we fail to live that way.

Tenderness is often a characteristic of those who themselves have been hurt or damaged. Such tenderness is the style of the wounded healer or suffering servant. It will be tinged with a forgiving, empathetic and merciful spirit.

It is in caring for the “little ones” that we learn to love tenderly -(the anawim of the Hebrew scriptures or Jesus’ reference to “the least” of our brothers and sisters, as in  Matthew 25) – the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, the naked. In our time we must understand “the least” or “the little ones” in a total ecological sense. In caring for the Earth,  threatened species and their environments, we will learn to love tenderly. So, I am talking about eco-justice which is nurtured by a comprehensive tender love.

Some years ago I wrote of “tender loving” in my journal, particularly in the context of recovering from serious illness. I was inspired by the words of an American medico who wrote a book with the wonderful title, “Love, Medicine and Miracles”. I wrote in my diary as I contemplated  my wounded body: such “loving is the life-stream which combines wholeness, healing and holiness.”

Then, we are called to Act Justly……….

This is the hardest word to hear….this is the message for followers of the Jesus way, especially it is what we needed to hear as Australians in the last few weeks facing an election and what is needed as we move on as a nation. Justice is not about personal needs primarily, but about the common good, and why the Gospel is a call to SOCIAL justice.. We all belong to the human family, indeed the family of all living beings. When we are grasped  by this insight, the burdens of others are not so heavy to bear – for they are the burdens of our brothers and sisters.

Of course “justice and love” are closely related. Indeed, it has been said that social justice is love distributed. This is why the biblical message is full of references to living justly. One of the strongest is in the Book of Jeremiah – “To know God is to do Justice”. Essentially, the biblical idea of justice is about “right relating” to each other, to our God, to all who share this planet. We are a Covenant people called to be faithful to all – this is what Jesus said in the Synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4) where he named his mission. So the Biblical notion of Justice goes beyond the way some of our leaders use the word, “fair”. Biblical Justice has a bias to correcting injustice. It suggests that we must be constantly, and courageously,  ready to change not only our minds but our actions. Social justice is more than simple charity. It gives a priority to the marginalised, the vulnerable and the powerless. We  see that clearly in the Jesus Story.

It’s worth wondering how we develop  our sense of justice and fairness. Let me share an autobiographical reflection.

I was a five year old in my first grade, walking home from school. The entertainment for the afternoon was for a group of us boys to tease a little migrant Scottish girl. I’m talking 1947 when Scottish migrants were the outsiders, the Asian migrants or asylum seekers of our time. We called her names  and threw stones at her. My father found out about this incident. He was very angry with me, righteously wrathful in fact. He did not hit me but gave me a piece of his mind (and heart) and insisted on taking me around to the girl’s house to apologise. This I did very tearfully. My father had opted to take the side of the aggrieved and ostracised migrant girl to correct the hurt and injustice we boys had perpetrated. The whole encounter made a profound impression on me, searing into my self (my emotions, my will my mind, my spirit) a  sense of injustice, righteous anger and empathy on behalf of the vulnerable and victimised. For me, that encounter was a lesson in right relating and I’m sure my father’s response did something to empower that migrant family. On reflection, for me it was a lesson on how just or right  relating may correct the imbalances  of power in our society and world.

In a nutshell, empowering justice requires us to reflect ethically about economic issues from the standpoint of the poor, not the rich; or race relations from the standpoint of the oppressed race; or environmental questions from the standpoint of the most vulnerable species and so on. There is no better way to learn what social justice is than to identify with the victims of injustice, as far as that is possible. In my adult years my own understanding of justice was fashioned by a decade of close involvement with aboriginal peoples in the seventies.

One of the great contributions of the Uniting Church has been a readiness to take a stand for Social Justice. And to tackle issues directly, not just speak vaguely about social justice matters.

When the UCA was formed I was the Assembly Convenor for Social Responsibility. With others it was our task to design “A Statement to the Nation” – written in 1977 it still has currency and meaning. I want to share 3 paragraphs…..

We pledge ourselves to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur. We will work for the eradication of poverty within our society and beyond. We affirm the right of all people to equal educational opportunities, adequate health care, freedom of speech, employment or dignity in unemployment if work is not available. We will oppose all forms of discrimination which infringe basic rights and freedoms.

We will challenge values which emphasise acquisitiveness and greed in disregard of the needs of others and which encourage a higher standard of living for the privileged in face of the daily widening gap between the rich and poor.

We are concerned with the basic human rights of future generations and will urge the wise use of energy, the protection of the environment and the replenishment of the Earth’s resources for their use and enjoyment.

(Can give you a full copy of the Assembly Statement)

Now back to our Text. “Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God……”

That is a great guide for living. That is a great motto for a congregation to adopt or for our Uniting Churches in the Redlands to make their chief guideline in the current planning for a shared future.

Let us make these matters of prayer for others, especially the marginalised. Let us join action with our prayer. AMEN

oOo