Sermon: Ask, search, knock


Luke 11:9-10

I wrote this poem a few years ago, reflecting on Jesus’ teaching that our desire to love, when taken far enough, eventually leads us to see the world in ‘I-thou’ terms. 

– Ted Witham

I asked for a Mercedes, coupé 220, of course.
Received a mirror, 360, signed, with love, Yours.
Reflected… the shiny image that was my deep desire;
to climb up the world’s path, a higher flyer.

I searched for love in writing reviews,
Expecting my readers to walk in my shoes;
I searched for love, making Church work my life,
but found love closer in children and wife.

I knocked on the door of God, Father, King,
Insight opened: metaphor turns God to ‘thing’;
I opening saw God as all my ‘Thou’,
me to be present in the Eternal Now.

Asking, searching, knocking, all stones stepped
to draw near to the One so wind-swept,
Spirit-blown, tempest-tendered,
The ‘Thou’ who all my love has ended.

 

Sit back and receive from God


And we think we are being called to greater efforts in hospitality, but we are not listening to Luke, we are not listening to Jesus in the gospel sections. Jesus is calling us to the opposite.

Hospitality was one of the key virtues in Jesus’ society. I would like to think it is one of the key virtues in ours. Last week the gospel began with an example of a Samaritan village refusing to give hospitality to the disciples en route to Jerusalem. Then Jesus tells the Scripture scholar the story of a Samaritan who did treat his neighbour with hospitality. Or at least that’s how the story is usually interpreted. ‘Go and do thou likewise.’

But as so often with Jesus, there’s a twist. The neighbour has become not the one receiving hospitality, but the one giving hospitality. How are we to treat our neighbour? Our neighbour in this case is the Samaritan, the stranger giving us hospitality. How do we receive the gift of kindness from strangers? Especially strangers who we are pre-programmed to distrust, even hate?

In the story, we are called primarily not to be good Samaritans, as worthy as that vocation is, but to  learn to be recipients.

Luke provides a similar twist in today’s gospel concerning Mary and Martha. All the usual interpretations about our hospitality to Jesus – are the tea and scones perfectly cooked and well-supplied? Are we ready to focus on spiritual teaching? Are women important in the church? are secondary issues. The primary issue, it seems to me, is how are we to receive the hospitality of Jesus to us?

In a sense, Mary in the story gives the clue. She is prepared to be a guest in her own home. She is prepared to allow Jesus to host her in Mary and Martha’s family home.

We are always too anxious, like Martha, to get things right. But these two stories are saying that God already has got things right. He is inviting us into the heart of his universe. He is the host. He is the one offering hospitality. And it is not always easy to receive, but what gifts are ours if we are open to God’s hospitality to us. What healing at the roadside; what feeding, what divine spiritual teaching, all are ours. The first action is to let God be God, let God be host, and to prepare to be not in control, not in charge, but to allow God to lead and provide.

 

[Luke 10:38-42 and Luke 10:25-37]

p32_monastichospitality231231

Image courtesy: https://thevirtualabbey.wordpress.com/category/ora-et-labora/

For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free


The hymn I wrote last year was sung at the Eucharist marking the 40th celebration of my ordination and that of Chris Albany and Len Firth. Len preached on Galatians 5, which comes around again in today’s lectionary.

For freedom Christ has set us free,
love’s energy to celebrate;
For freedom Christ has set us free,
love’s energy to demonstrate.

We thank you, Lord, for your good grace,
for people loved, for teachers taught;
for insights into who you are;
for all our growth in heart and thought.

We walk in step with you, good Lord,
your Spirit shows us how to live.
You grace our lives with love and joy,
and give us courage all to give.

We go in faith to live for you,
to spread your love, to preach your grace.
Take our hands and guide our feet,
and lead us till we see you face.

For freedom Christ has set us free,
love’s energy to celebrate;
For freedom Christ has set us free,
love’s energy to elevate.

 

  • Ted Witham TSSF 2015

galatians5-13

The Spirit of Old Age – Pentecost 2016


The Spirit of Old Age – Pentecost 2016

Our hearing goes as years grow old and God
speaks to our hearts in bracing ways and still
God reaches out like fire to lightning rod
to defibrillate deaf hearts, re-set will.

The spoken Word is void and hearing’s sense
has lost its power to move and renovate.
In old age the calm centre flares intense
In inner fire comes Spirit advocate.

The Word has become a perilous false guide
in querulous senility sounds blurred,
trust God not the ear, and be satisfied
when experience matches the remembered Word!

Persist in the tension of paradox,
the Word can appraise the true orthodox.

– Ted Witham 2016

 

1623742_669424619767393_1520640419_n

Campfire – courtesy Koora Retreat Centre, Western Australia

 

 

Psalm 104 for Sandgropers


Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendour and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with an overcoat,
stretching out the heavens like a deep blue dome.
He lays cloud-streets as rafter beams for the sky;
he makes cumulus clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
he makes his messengers winds,
he makes his ministers a flaming fire.

He set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved.
You covered it with the deep waters like a cloak;
the waters stood above the mountains.
At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
to the place that you appointed for them.
You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.

You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
they give drink to every animal in the wild;
the wallabies quench their thirst.
Beside them live the magpies;
they sing carols among the branches.
From your lofty home  you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

You make grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for people to cultivate,
that they may bring forth food from the earth
and wine to gladden people’s hearts,
olive oil to make their face shine
and bread to strengthen their hearts.

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the great karri trees of the south-west that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests;
the wedgetail has her home in the great gum trees.
The high mountains are for the mygalomorph spiders;
the rocks are a refuge for the skinks.

He made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the wild animals creep about.
The dingoes howl for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they steal away
and lie down in their dens.

People go out to their work
and to their labour until the evening.

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
There go the cruise ships,
and the blue whale, which you formed as your playmate.

These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works,
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the Stirlings and the mist moves on the mountains!1
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!

 

Translation ESV (http://www.esvbible.org/)

1 The Aboriginal (Noongar) name for the Stirling Ranges means “The mist moving on the mountains”.

 

 

img_0578

Wedgetail eagle nest – Photo courtesy Jill Sampson bimbleboxartproject.com

 

 

 

 

Burial at Sea


Burial at Sea

She went on the boat, the toddler Aliya,
an act of love and desperation,
beginning the middle passage of risk and fear,
from war-torn country to wealthy free nation.

They stand in a ring and pray,
the parents, the uncles, the old friends,
they squeeze tight to produce the way
for Aliya to fight through to good ends.

They thought it was better, this boat,
not crowded, not corrupted, not bad,
safely able to cross Europe’s wide moat,
Thus farewells were confident and sad.

Aliya was soon alone, pushed into the hold
of a forty-foot boat with ninety aboard,
the hull, the frame, the motor all old,
no food, no toilet, naught aboveboard.

All around the headache-making stench
of dieseline and human waste and sick,
men groan, women cry, Aliya can clench
her eyes against foul air so thick.

This the middle passage – you must know now
that migrants and crew have been jettisoned.
Peristaltic waves rock Aliya, bitter winds blow,
Motor falters, death has been commissioned.

Little Aliya is quiet. No food for three whole days,
She slips away, a pilgrim to paradise,
her middle passage a satanic maze
She comes to its end a tiny sacrifice.

It’s rough. There’s no one close to grieve.
She’s shrouded. Prayers are said. Blessing and peace
and the Prophet’s words give leave
to the little corpse as it slides beneath the seas.

While in Beirut or Bath they count their US dollars.

  • Ted Witham 2016

 

a-boatdingy-sinking-between-bodrum-and-kos

Photo courtesy Mirror.co.uk

 

Isaiah 42 for Western Australia


Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:

6  “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,

7  to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

8  I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.

9  Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

10  Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from one side of Australia to the other,
you who go down to the Indian Ocean, and its leviathan surf,
you who explore the wave-carved gaps and blow-holes of Torndirrup National Park.

11  Let the Sandy Desert and places up north raise their voice,
the towns of the Great Western Woodlands cry out to God;
let the wild-flowers of the  south-west sing for joy,
let the climbers shout from the top of the Stirling Ranges.

12  Let us give glory to the Lord,
and declare his praise in Geographe Bay.

– Isaiah 42:5-12 based on ESV

dsc_0308

The Great Western Woodlands