Messages of Hope

Month: April 2021

#IWMD April 28, 2021

Published / by Sandy

A reverent and touching International Workers Memorial Day service was held at Pilgrim Uniting Church on 28th April 2021. International Workers’ Memorial Day is supported by the Government of South Australia, Pilgrim Uniting Church, SA Council of Churches, SA Unions, Asbestos Victims Association, Asbestos Diseases Society of SA and Voice of Industrial Death, Worksafe SA. Everyone affected by a work-related death or significant trauma was welcomed to attend the service and were provided with the opportunity to contribute a personal item or photograph for the memorial display. The ecumenical commemorative service featured a candle-lighting ceremony as well as the symbolic release of doves.

Rev Liz Dyson presented the following reflection, based on Psalm 139.

“There is sometimes one moment in time, one image that speaks to and captures the imagination of many many people in many many places.
Some weeks ago as I’m sure you noticed, the world was witness to the funeral of Prince Philip. Whether you are a royal follower or not, there’s a strong chance that even if you didn’t stay up late to watch the event, you would have caught images of it on the news, in the paper or on social media.

There was one particular image that captured my imagination and has stayed in my mind, and I know the minds of many others from that event.
It was the image of the Queen of England, dressed all in black, wearing a black mask, head bowed, her hat hiding much of her face from the world, and sitting completely alone, at the funeral of her husband of over 70 years.
Such a profound image for so many reasons. A woman with many privileges yet suddenly not so different from us. Not immune from Covid restrictions. Not immune from sadness and loss. In the midst of grief.
Perhaps this image of grief was so profound for so many because there has been so much grief in our community and in our world in recent times.
We grieve our pre-pandemic world where we could feel safe, where livelihoods might not be threatened by shut downs and restrictions, and where we could travel to be with friends and family. A world where when significant events like funerals and marriages and birthday celebrations are organized we can plan to be there and then actually be there. We grieve for a world in which nurses and doctors and bus drivers and baggage handlers could go to work and not fear contracting a dangerous virus.

And in recent days too we marked Anzac Day – where we remember those who have lost their lives or their limbs or their mental health for the safety and freedom of others.

And then today, International Workers Memorial day we especially remember and share our grief for those who have died in or because of their work-place…

There is something sacred and significant and really helpful about being together at these important times. About grieving in community. About shared ritual and shared space and shared stories … and a shared hope and commitment for things to be different and safer in the future. It connects us. It somehow makes our grief shared. It helps us to carry the load together. And this is why we meet here today.

And yet I think too that what was so powerful about that image of the Queen was the reminder that however helpful it is to be together and share our grief with others, in the end it is also true that our grief is a very personal and individual thing.

There was only one person who knew Prince Philip like the Queen knew Prince Philip. If you are here today because someone you know and love died at work or because of work, you are the only person who knew that person in the way you did.

And we know too that grief is different for different people, and we grieve in different ways … there are the activist grievers who pour the energy of their grief into making the world a safer place for others. I’m sure we have some of those here today.

Then there are the still and quiet grievers who spend time and energy being present to the memory of the one they have lost.

There are those who throw themselves back into life in the hope that the sadness doesn’t swallow them up.

And there are many other ways of doing grief, perhaps as many ways as there are people who grieve.

Sometimes you may have noticed our different ways of grieving create tension – why aren’t they doing it like me? Why can’t they understand that I need to be quiet, or that I need to be busy or that I just can’t think about that right now.

Whatever your experience of grief our reading today is for you. It was written several thousands of years ago, but it is no less meaningful and relevant now than the day it was written down …

Psalm 139 tells us that whatever is happening for us there is One who knows… There is One who understands. “O Lord you have searched me and known me we read. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord you know it completely”.

This scripture tells us that however isolated our grief can make us feel, however long those sleepless nights of tears and pacing and sitting and lying down and pacing might be … we don’t suffer them unseen and alone.
This scripture reminds us that however baffled and confused our thoughts might be as we are reeling from our new reality, there is someone who can make sense of them.

When we find ourselves in the mustard aisle of the supermarket and inexplicably burst into tears. When that song comes on the radio and we are almost knocked over by a tsunami of sadness. When we just can’t get out of bed and we can’t exactly tell you why … there is One who notices and understands.

This is so for each one of us. And every person we love.

We can sometimes feel like we are falling endlessly inwards … but our inner world is known intimately by the God who created us and though we can get lost in there – God knows God’s way around.

And furthermore, this Psalm tells us that there is nowhere in the world, or the universe or on this side of life or on the other side where we or our loved ones can go where the God who created us and loves us is not already there.

You might be thinking … how close to this God do I really want to be – this God who has let me be in this place of great loss and sadness. Fair point.
You can feel free to be angry with God. God is big enough to hold your anger. God is big enough to walk with you in and through that anger and in time to enable you to grow around all that anger and grief.

Perhaps the words of the Psalmist resonate with some here today when they say “surely the darkness shall cover me and the light around me become night” Scholars tell us that the word for cover here can also mean bruise, crush or overwhelm. Surely the darkness shall crush and overwhelm me … But even the darkness is not dark, not overwhelming for God. When the way forward for us is unclear, when it’s hard to see a glimmer of light, the night is as bright as the day for God. Which means that in our darkness we are seen Even if we can’t see where to put our feet
There is one who can see the way forward and whose hand leads us
Whose right hand holds us fast.

If you did watch the funeral of Prince Philip you will have noticed that much effort was made in honouring this man’s life. There were soldiers on parade and cannons being fired, a thousand moving parts and everything choreographed down to the last second and the finest detail to mark the weight of this loss.

And then, perhaps most powerful of all, all of them, everyone present, and potentially most of the nation, and actually millions of people around the world all fell silent… all completely stopped what they were doing …to honour the passing of Philip…

And isn’t that how it feels when our loved one dies – that the whole world should stop. That people shouldn’t just go about their ordinary business.
Because the world has stopped for us.

And God knows this and understands this and cares about this. From the moment we are conceived to the moment we are welcomed into the arms of God when we leave this life we are seen, we are loved, we are known.

It is the same whether we are the Queen of England. Or the ancient writer of this psalm. Whoever we are, construction worker, politician, health care professional, job seeker, union official, cleaner, lawyer, carer, farmer…
The hand that formed and knit us together in our mother’s womb is the hand that continues to lead us and hold us fast.

Whoever we are, whatever we do, may we know deeply the life giving comfort, inspiration and strength of God’s all-knowing understanding presence with us, today and always. Amen”.

(Rev Liz Dyson, Co-ordinating Chaplain, Ashford Hospital, 28th April 2021)

The Gift of Years

Published / by Sandy

Like many viewers, I have enjoyed watching episodes from this season’s ‘Old People’s Home for 4 year olds‘.

What is so heartening is the relationship that grows between the children and the older people, and watching the older people grow in confidence and their willingness to be on the adventure the children embrace so readily.

In the film ‘Nomadland‘ the main character (Fern) in her 60’s is introduced to the concept of ‘ripening’. Joan Chittister writes, ‘All of life, at any age, is about ripening. Life is about doing every age well, learning what we are meant to learn from it, and giving to it what we are meant to give back to it’.

When we think about life as simply a linear trajectory, it is easy to focus on decline and loss – loss of mobility, loss of opportunities, loss of good health, loss of loved ones…. but when we immerse ourselves into each stage of life, as Sr Joan suggests, then we can look at how we do each stage well. “All human beings are continuously coming out of one part of life and going into another; clinging to what is familiar, but unable to stop ourselves from slipping into the next stage.”

It’s worth exploring Sr Joan’s book, The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully.

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat review of her book is enlightening:

The great adventure of growing older and being an elder is the chance to deepen and enrich our spirituality. Whereas we can find examples of this in the medicine men and women of indigenous cultures and in the seers of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religious traditions, wise old souls are rarely depicted in Western movies and television programs. Usually old people are portrayed as frail, bumbling, or silly. People grow up assuming that they will literally be over the hill with nothing to look forward to once they pass the retirement age. Joan Chittister explores the sad consequences of stereotypes about ageing. She posits a different and very inspiring portrait of the gifts, not the lack, of years.

At a lecture in New York City in late April, Chittister told the funny (and not-so-funny) story of asking a store clerk for a battery charger for her iPhone. The twentysomething man just stared at her, so she repeated what she needed. Finally, he said, “Lady, you have an iPhone?” The message was pretty clear. He thought she was too old to have the latest technology, associated with people who are up and about in the world and need to stay connected with lots of people. We at the lecture had a good laugh over this, but at the same time, we agreed when Chittister added that it was a laugh that was accompanied by a “stab in the psyche.” When we see elders as static people, rather than constantly developing ones, we do them and ourselves a great disservice.

Old brains are no less intellectually competent than young brains. “Scientists have discovered that older people, while not as quick computationally as younger people, do think just as well as the young, but differently – with more depth, with more reflection, with more philosophical awareness.”

Living life to the fullest means active ageing, and one thing that can make the difference between health and unhealthy aging is lifelong learning. According to the Harvard University Longitudinal Study of Adult Development, continued learning determines “the degree to which life will be satisfying to us, as well as the degree to which we will be interesting, valuable, life-giving to others.” Learning projects that keep elders’ minds active also expand their horizons and give them opportunities to be in community with others on retreats, study groups, or in online e-courses.

In a series of short, bright, and snappy chapters, Chittister provides a tour of other elements of growing older gracefully. She is convinced that only the old can make this journey into an adventure, a sweet spot in time that abounds with pleasure:

“Old age is not when we stop growing. It is exactly the time to grow in new ways. It is the period in which we set out to make sense of all the growing we have already done. It is the softening season when everything in us is meant to achieve its sweetest, richest, most unique self.”

One gift of years is the additional time to be of service and to fulfill a life purpose. This may mean playing a greater role as a co-creator of the world through projects for the general welfare. It may mean exploring ethical choices more deeply and bringing our experiences to bear on the challenges facing our communities. “A blessing of these years,” she writes, “is to have the time to complete in ourselves what has been neglected all these years, so that the legacy we leave to others is equal to the full potential within us.” This is a deeply spiritual quest, and Chittister makes a fine guide.

Of course the church is concerned about ‘ageing congregations’ and longevity of ‘church as we know it’, but ministry with older people – not reckoned by a business model but a pastoral model – is strategic and life-giving when seen as connecting meaningfully with a deeply spiritual quest for those in the ‘third third’ of their lives.


Published / by Sandy

On Sunday April 25th we recognise ANZAC Day. A special ANZAC Day Evensong service featuring the Choir of Pilgrim Church will take place at 6pm at Pilgrim Uniting Church, 12 Flinders St, Adelaide. The service setting will be Thomas Attwood Walmisley’s D Minor Service and the anthem of Jonathan Dove’s, ‘They will rise’.

All are welcome to this free remembrance service

The Moderator of the SA, Mr Bronte Wilson, offered this reflection for ANZAC Day 2021:

This is the 106th anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, along with soldiers of many other nations, landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula, near the beginning of the First World War which was expected to be the war to end all wars. Since then, there have been over 100,000 deaths and more than 200,000 wounded in 29 conflicts in which Australia has taken part.

ANZAC Day is more than just a national holiday, it is a fundamental Australian tradition. This is not merely a date of some remote campaign, this is a celebration of the spirit of Australia. This is a celebration of the spirit of courage, of discipline, of mateship and solidarity, of resourcefulness and resilience; the spirit where we know that we stick together in adversity, and support each other; the spirit that goes the extra mile to make sure that things are okay.

Australians recognise the date as an occasion of national remembrance, which can take many forms. This year many events have restricted numbers, and like last year, we are encouraged to stand in our driveways at dawn to remember. In these and other ways, ANZAC Day is a time when Australians reflect on the many different meanings of war.

On ANZAC Day, along with Remembrance Day, we especially remember those Australian men and women who died or suffered in the great tragedy of war. Each year we pay homage not only to those original ANZACs, but to all who have died or been disabled in their service to this country. They enrich our nation’s history. Their hope was for the freedom of us all and we remember with pride their courage, their compassion and their comradeship. They have served and continue to serve on land and sea and in the air, in many places throughout the world.

Not only do we honour the memory of those Australians who have fallen in battle; we share the sorrow of those who have mourned them and of all who have been the victims of armed conflict. We remember with sympathy those Australians who have suffered as prisoners of war, and those whose lives have been dramatically impacted because of war.

We also remember those who stayed at home, and who still stay at home, and admire their strength and endurance as they support their loved ones in situations of potential danger.

On ANZAC Day we realise that we are not just thinking of those who fought in times gone by. We remember that we are still involved as a nation in peacekeeping efforts and that there are defence personnel serving in at least 16 locations overseas at this time, in the Middle East, the Pacific and Asia. We remember their duty, their courage, their teamwork and their determination, their initiative and resourcefulness.

We are reminded that remembering does not glorify war. In remembering we can hope that those times are not repeated. In remembering we can stand in solidarity with those who suffer in situations of violence and injustice. In remembering we can pray for God’s peace and reconciliation for the whole world. We recall that the Lord is our shepherd, and is with us, guiding us in difficult times of turmoil and war as well as in times of abundance and tranquility. In remembering we join with our brothers and sisters around the world to stand up for what we know to be right, for justice and fairness for all, for peace and compassion to reign.

On ANZAC Day we pay our respect and say thank you, to God, for the freedom that we enjoy today. We reflect on the notion of sacrifice, the ultimate example of which we have in Christ, and to pray for peace in our world. In commemorating ANZAC Day in the church, we do not seek to glorify war, but to give thanks for those who have laid down their lives for us, and to come alongside and pray for those who bear the costs of war, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Prayer: Loving God, we pause to remember those who sailed from this country many years ago, and all who have served down the years in time of war. We remember the many Australian service personnel who have given their lives in many theatres of war, resisting evil, defending our country and standing with others to protect freedom in the world. We pause in our lives to honour them today. We pray for widows and orphans and those who carry the scars of war in their minds and bodies. May we as a nation always be generous in caring for them and providing for their needs. May we be challenged by this costly sacrifice, to be a little less inwardly focused, and dedicate ourselves afresh to work for peace in our world, our country and our relationships with others. This we pray in Jesus’ name, who also gave his life for others. Amen.

(Originally published on the SA UCA Synod website)

Earth Day 2021

Published / by Sandy

Earth Day 2021 is Thursday April 22. It was first celebrated over 50 years ago, in 1970.

The 2021 theme is Restore Our Earth which focuses on natural processes and emerging green technologies that can restore the world’s ecosystems. The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have painfully reminded us about the impacts of human behaviour that break down natural systems and threaten the lives of so many species, including humans. Restore Our Earth reminds us of the opportunity we have to restore relationship, to reconnect with Creation, and learn to live in right relationship with people and the earth, and to pursue economic recovery programs following the pandemic that incorporate strong sustainability and low-carbon measures. The world could effectively use the exit from COVID-19 to accelerate a green transition. Every one of us needs a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health and survival, and happiness.

Christine Sine ( writes:

Like many early Christians, I believe that God speaks through two books – the Bible and creation. The great Irish teacher John Scotus Eriugena, “invites us to listen to the two books in stereo. He encourages us to listen to the strains of the human heart in scripture and to discern within them the sound of God and to listen to the murmurings and thunders of creation and to know within them the music of God’s being.”
(From J. Phillip Newell, Christ of the Celts, p50).

The Celts knew Jesus as the Word of God. They also saw scripture as the little (in size) book testifying to God, and nature as the big book revealing who God is. It was perfectly natural for them to go into nature and learn of God. This makes some folks nervous, and several years ago I would have been nervous as well. (*’Worshipping the creation rather than the Creator” is a significant warning about knowing the difference between the two. God fashioned creation to give testimony to who God is. This truth becomes evident as we re-read scripture, especially the Psalms and the parables of Jesus’).

We should take comfort in the words of Paul to the church in Rome: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.” (Romans 1:19-20)

Christine continues: ‘I am not alone in this. Christians increasingly meet with God through practices like Lectio Tierra and forest bathing’.

Did you know Rev Dr Jana Norman, former Minister at Pilgrim Uniting Church, is a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy/Forest Bathing Guide? See more about Jana here, and the focus for her second doctoral thesis here). Australian bushwalkers have known for generations that spending time in the great outdoors is good for the body, the mind and the soul. “It’s the slowness, it’s the stillness, it’s the deep attention to being in the place, so I notice shapes, and colours, and sounds”. (Dr Jana Norman)

As you celebrate Earth week this week, find ways to enrich your connection to God’s wonderful creation – on a walk, in the garden – and consider ways to continue “reading” this second book through which God is revealed, every week of the year.

(In the last week, a new video series, “the Lessons from COVID-19 for the Climate Emergence”, was launched by Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia. It is the Uniting Church Fellowship and Mission Support (UCFAMS) President’s project with the support of the South Australian Synod with collaborators including Rev Jennifer Hughes, Rev Lyn Leane, Rev Brian Polkinghorne, Dr Colin Cargill, and Leigh Newton. The series invites an informed conversation about the Climate Change crisis. All videos and accompanying study materials will be freely available).

30th anniversary – Royal Commission

Published / by Sandy

(from Bronte Wilson, the Moderator, SA Synod)

April 15th marked the 30th anniversary of the handing down of the Royal Commission report into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in Australia.

At that time the report, along with its 339 recommendations was heralded as an important step towards reducing the incarceration rate and deaths in custody of First Peoples.

Sadly, and to our national shame, in the 30 years since, few of the recommendations made and ideals expressed have been fully implemented and the situation has worsened.

The President of the Uniting Church, Dr Deidre Palmer and the National Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, Rev Mark Kickett have released a statement which can be found at this link.

I encourage you to read the statement and as the President says, ‘We join UAICC in urging governments at all levels to work together to deliver substantive and durable change.’

In South Australia, our Synod meeting in November 2019 resolved to express to the South Australian Government, among other things, our continuing deep concern about Aboriginal imprisonment and black deaths in custody. In particular, the death of Wayne Morrison after unexplained events at Yatala Labour Prison and our continued grief over the high levels of imprisonment of First People in this state.

We believe it is evidence of the failure of our state to rightly relate to the First People of this place. We also expressed profound concerns about the structures and processes within SA Correctional Services.

We all stand with First Peoples and continue to strive for justice and work towards the adoption and implementation of all the Royal Commission recommendations. We continue to pray for the families and friends of those who have died and also pray for continuing reconciliation as we live out the Covenant between First and Second Peoples.

And this statement from Dr Deidre Palmer, President, Uniting Church in Australia, and Pastor Mark Kickett, Interim Chair, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress):

On the 30-year anniversary of the report of Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and Uniting Church in Australia have called on all levels of government to commit to systemic and lasting change to reduce the nation’s alarmingly high incarceration rates for First Peoples.

“Thirty years ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody provided a blueprint for preventing deaths in custody and reducing the incarceration rate of First Peoples. It’s now a generation later and governments at all levels have failed to act,” said Pastor Mark Kickett, Interim UAICC National Chairperson.

Since the final report was table in 1991, the incarceration rate for First Peoples has doubled. More than 450 First Peoples have died in custody in the past 30 years, with five dying in the past month alone.

“This is a national crisis that requires urgent, systemic and lasting change – not more buck passing, delay or deferral”.

“We should be building communities, not more prisons. We need a comprehensive, coordinated and holistic approach that empowers communities and shifts the focus toward investing in prevention, early intervention, and diversion approaches.”

Pastor Kickett noted a key theme in the Royal Commission’s findings was the importance of self-determination.

“Lasting change must be based on the involvement of First Peoples in the development, implementation and ownership of policies and programs that tackle incarceration and build strong and resilient communities.

“A Constitutionally-enshrined Voice would ensure First Nations full participation in the solutions – all we need now is the political leadership and commitment from governments to listen and act,” said Pastor Kickett.

Alison Overeem, UAICC National Executive member and co-Chair of the Uniting First Peoples Working Group, emphasised the need for a comprehensive approach that promotes healing and connections to culture, and recognises the impacts of colonisation and intergenerational trauma.

“Churning people through the justice system simply perpetuates a cycle of intergenerational grief, trauma and disadvantage. Governments should instead be supporting a whole-of-community, grassroots-led, and solutions-based approach – an approach that takes into account social determinants and the impacts of intergenerational trauma and child removal.

“Programs and policies to tackle incarceration need to be grounded in our strengths, our resilience, our cultures. The connections and reconnections to culture and community bring the strength that’s needed to sustain preventative measures.”

UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer said the 30-year failure to address Indigenous incarceration was a national shame.

“In the Uniting Church, we believe we have a destiny together as First and Second Peoples, and this calls us to seek out justice for all.”

“Today we grieve with our First Nation brothers and sisters the more than 450 Indigenous deaths in custody since the Royal Commission 30 years ago, including five in the past month.”

“It is unacceptable that nearly half of the youth detention population are First Peoples, with children as young as 10-years of age being torn away from their communities and locked away.”

“We join UAICC in urging governments at all levels to work together to deliver substantive and durable change.”

“Raising the age of criminal responsibility nationally is one action that Australian governments can take right now that will have an immediate – and generational – impact to reduce the over-incarceration and give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children a brighter future,” said Dr Palmer.

(Pilgrim Uniting Church is planning a series of events and activities in the next few months that we hope will resource the church further in raising awareness of these critical issues, including a forum with Rev Dr Chris Budden. Updates will be on the website and Pilgrim’s Facebook page and in UC e-news)

Hope in these troubled times

Published / by Sandy
Professor Dr Jürgen Moltmann

Renowned theologian Jürgen Moltmann turned 95 on 8th April, 2021.

For decades, he has shared books, lectures, presentations and discussions that have been received and beloved by audiences far and wide. With topics ranging from the afterlife, to justice, peace and the integrity of creation, Moltmann continues to make immeasurable contributions to ongoing theological formation. He came to prominence in 1964 with the publication of Theology of Hope, which offered a message that chimed with the turbulent 1960s and the search for a better future. He got public attention when the New York Times featured his theology of hope on the front page with the caption “‘God Is Dead’ Doctrine Losing Ground to “Theology of Hope”’.

In his most recent book, Hope in These Troubled Times (2019), he offers a frank assessment of the dangers that confront humanity, and traces our steepest problems to assumptions behind the modern worldview. But he also explores the root and character of Christian hope, and he envisions the form and shape of a life-affirming spirituality, one that can inform and enliven Christian faith in imperiled times.

In chapters composed over the last five years, Moltmann includes specific discussions of the ecological crisis, the encounter of world religions, terror and violence, social justice and compassion, as well as rethinking foundational philosophical and theological questions, particularly of God, creation, and being human, in light of these challenges. “Today’s many crises put the survival of the human species and of the planet at risk. What do Christians and Christian faith have to offer?”

Since Moltmann is one of the most widely-read theologians of our time, and remains so even today, in honour of his 95th birthday, the WCC is offering Hope in These Troubled Times (2019) for free for a limited time (downloadable PDF). Definitely worth a read!

Christian hope draws the promised future of God into the present day, and prepares the present day for this future. As Immanuel Kant rightly said, thinking in the power of hope is not the train-bearer of reality: instead, it goes ahead of reality and lights its way with a torch. The historical-eschatological category is the category of the novum, that which is new: the new spirit, the new heart, the new human being, the new covenant, the new song, and ultimately, the promise: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). In light of our faith, as Christians we can honestly assess and face the full force of humanity’s contemporary challenges yet also experience and instil a realistic hope of transcending them.
Part One: Facing the Future
Part One focuses on renewing theology and reasserting hope today.
A Culture of Life in the Dangers of This Time
The Hope of the Earth: The Ecological Future of Modern Theology
A Common Earth Religion: World Religions from an Ecological Perspective
Mercy and Solidarity
The Unfinished World: Nature, Time, and the
Terrorism and Political Theology
Is the City a Place of Hope? The Urbanization of Humankind – A Challenge for Christianity
Part Two: Learning from the Past
Part Two explores the historical and theological sources of our situation and our future.
God and the Soul, God and the Senses
The Unfinished Reformation: Ecumenical Answers to Unresolved Problems
Persevering in Faith: Roots of a Theology of Hope
The Passibility or Impassibility of God
The Mystery of the Past

The Youtube link is a lecture and book launch for Hope in These Troubles Times (1.43 in length!)

A prayer for Myanmar

Published / by Sandy

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Dr Deidre Palmer, has called upon church members to hold in prayer the people of Myanmar as they continue to face an ongoing state of emergency following the recent military coup on February 1. Daily protests have been ongoing in towns and cities across Myanmar after the military seized control. On April 1, the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters and the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Myanmar.

As reports emerge of the use of violent force against peaceful protestors, and the rising civilian death toll, the Uniting Church echoes the deep concern of the World Council of Churches and Christian Conference of Asia about the deteriorating and volatile situation in the region.

“We hear the distress of the Burmese community in Australia, some of whom have found a home in the Uniting Church,” said Dr Palmer. “We stand with those members of our communities, and with the people of Myanmar as they protest for the restoration of democracy and freedom.”

“We believe that Christ comes to bring renewal and wholeness to the whole of creation, and so we reject violence, urging dialogue and a spirit of reconciliation to resolve conflict. We pray for God’s vision of non-violence, peace, and justice to prevail.”

Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace,
in your death you absorb the violence and injustice we do to each other,
and in your rising
they are proven to be futile and false.
May it be so in Myanmar,
where violence and injustice overwhelms.
Reconcile what is broken.
Heal what is wounded.
Restore what is just.
Disrupt the forces of death once again,
so that we may see peace in our time.

Easter: Hope and Courage

Published / by Sandy

“In the Easter Story, we hear of the hope and transformation that comes from following Jesus, as well as the courage this inspires,” says Dr Deidre Palmer in her 2021 Easter message. Deidre is President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Dr Palmer has used her annual Easter video to highlight the courageous women in the Easter story and those speaking out against injustice today.

Just two weeks after tens of thousands of Australians gathered at Parliament House and in cities across the country for the March4Justice, Dr Palmer gives thanks in her Easter message to those raising their voices for gender equality.

Deidre recalls the women in the Easter story, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who came to the tomb of Jesus while the other disciples were in hiding because they feared for the lives.

“It would have taken courage and deep love to come to that place to honour Jesus after his death,” said Dr Palmer.

“In the face of doubt and a society that discounted women’s voices, the women left that place and shared the good news with great joy.”

“The risen Christ inspires and empowers Christians today, to courageously advocate in the face of injustice: raising voices for gender equality, walking together with First Peoples and calling out for the healing of our planet”.

The Moderator in the SA UCA Synod, Mr Bronte Wilson has also issued an Easter message.

Easter is a time of hope, a time of new beginnings. As we approach Easter this year, our hearts go out to people, all over the world, who have been living in darkness and fear and uncertainty. And continue to do so. We think of people devastated by the global pandemic, physically, financially, emotionally and of those experiencing discrimination and disadvantage. We think of families living in situations of domestic violence and other forms of abuse and of those trying to rebuild lives and communities after natural disasters and events such as bushfires, droughts and floods. But as we approach Easter this year, we can also see, around us, situations of hope. As the rain arrives and the green shoots sprout on the ash-blackened trees, as community groups raise awareness of our biases and judgements, as we stand up for situations of injustice and oppression, as the Covid19 vaccine begins its uptake, there are signs of hope springing forth all around us. Easter is a time of hope. A time of new beginnings. Easter is also time of darkness and uncertainty, as we witness Jesus’ journey to the cross and the injustice of his death. But then, Easter brings the promise of new life, in resurrection power, as Jesus’ broken body, put to death on the cross, is transformed into a new creation. As is written in 2 Corinthians 5 if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! Easter brings the fulfilment of God’s promise of hope, of a new way of being. Easter brings the hope of reconnection and reconciliation, of all humanity to God, and to each other; the hope of reconciliation for all of creation. It is a time to leave behind the darkness and despair of the past. That doesn’t always mean our situations will dramatically improve. Natural disasters still occur, people still live with racism and oppression, inequality still exists, power still corrupts. But Easter brings a promise of a new way of being, a way of transforming these situations, in ways that we might never imagine; as the spirit of God works in our world, and in our midst. The spirit of God sustains and strengthens and empowers us both to live in these difficult situations of darkness and uncertainty, and to be transformed by them… so that we live out this hope and bring hope to others. Easter is a time of hope, a time of new beginnings. New beginnings and new opportunities.

Risen Life

Published / by Sandy
CRAIGIE AITCHISON ‘The Pink Crucifixion’, from the Methodist Modern Art Collection

Pink: How shocking!
How outrageous!
How daring!
How bold!
Bright, shocking, in your face, pink.
The pink of teenagers making a statement, standing out from the crowd.
The breast cancer campaigner.
The pink of the Dulux advert: The young man goes to the best party!
– The Pink Crucifixion: People stop and stare. They talk…..
The picture challenges and shocks.
It’s daring and innovative;
Challenges to think outside the box.
It’s off the wall, in your face!
Perhaps not too far removed from Jesus…
Perhaps the picture reminds us of when we were first challenged by the Cross?
The Cross – A brutal place.
The work of Jesus on the Cross:
A symbol of hope and new beginnings. We are a risen Easter people.
We come in faith to the Cross.
We move forward beyond the Cross.
We place our faith in events we did not witness.
We give thanks for the first witnesses to tell their story;
For those who still give the message of “Good News” through their creative work.
We are reminded that we are washed, cleansed, forgiven, restored, redeemed and healed at the Cross.
Perhaps pink represents the vibrancy of Jesus…
A Jesus whom we serve, journey with, and give witness to?
Happy Easter.
He is Risen. Alleluia.

(Glenys Jones 2014)

Holy Saturday – hope deferred?

Published / by Sandy

What was it like for the first disciples?
What was it like to live on that first Holy Saturday when all hope is gone,
when all that we love is lost,
when God is dead?
We know the end of the story.
We know of resurrection, so we do not wish to dwell in this dark place.
We want to rush on to Easter Sunday, when life returns.
It is too hard to live on Holy Saturday,
to spend our time in the dark and conflicted places of Golgotha and Gethsemane,
the place where despair has all the best answers to our questions.
But what of the people who have no choice?
What of the people who always live on Holy Saturday.
The child beaten and abused at home whose only hope is to run away?
The child living with alcohol misusing parents,
Trapped, too young, into adult responsibilities.
The disabled child, never given the chance to join in.
The refugee child, always a problem, never simply a person.
What must it be like to live on Holy Saturday,
when we do not know how the story ends?
When hope is absent, who will be there to look after them?
Who will be there for the children on their Holy Saturday?

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus help me to wait here
In the in-between of Holy Saturday.
For I cannot help but rejoice – you have come!
And yet still I grieve – for the world still waits – you have yet to come.
Lord Jesus help me to pray here in the in-between of Holy Saturday.
For you are risen and I can’t, won’t, don’t want to forget it.
And yet I mourn with those who still wait
for your kingdom’s fullness of peace, hope and justice.
Lord Jesus help me to live here in the in-between of Holy Saturday.
For your kingdom has come and is yet to come.
And I, in some small way,
hope to build – with you – all things new.

© 2011 Nigel Varndell