The Warm House, On a Hill by the Ocean, Just Outside of Town

In the morning a father stands in the doorway
His eyes anxiously inviting the dawn
a nervous frown on his face as he scans all he can see
the city, the ocean, the fields…
And as he stares, he begins to hum under his breath..
an impatient murmur that tumbles into a chant
and finally swells into a whispered song
“come home, my daughter, my son, my love
come home my child, come home.”
In the afternoon a brother slides through the streets
through hidden doorways, up secret alleyways,
determined, streetwise and strong
And as he runs, he grabs the hand of each
dirty, skinny, shabby child he finds and staring into their
face smiles and presses a letter into their hand.
Then looking around,
making sure he won’t be heard by the soldiers on the corner
whispers in their ear
“Come home my daughter, my son, my love,
come home my child come home.”
As evening falls and shadows lengthen
the house grows cold and drafty.
And as the shadows become the creeping dark
the houses around slam windows, block doors
and lock themselves tight.
But this door is not shut.
This door is never shut.
The bright burning fire casts its glow out onto the street
and the fields, and the ocean.
The smell of fresh bread and hot soup escapes and drifts on the breeze.
And in the deepest moment of the darkest night
by this door a mother stands,
Her keen eyes lighting up the slumbering world
Her warm voice carrying strong her song.
She smiles as she hears her children snoring and shifting behind her in their sleep.
But there are more children in the fields, on the ocean, in the streets,
So many, so hungry and so alone.
And there is room in her house for so many more.
And there is bread and soup enough for all
and so she sings into the night
“Come home my daughter, my son, my love.
Come home my child come home.”


Source: Gareth

Uniting Our Future

It hasn’t been a great month for the church.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had funeral directors, colleagues and friends ring me to find out whether Coatesville was being sold.  Friends in nearby and far away congregations are looking at the change they have before them and wondering “What now?”
I grew up in one of the churches that is being sold.  I learned to read the bible there, was baptized there,  learned about God’s love from very faithful people.  I sat through 45 minute sermons there, ignoring what the minister said and reading the Godfather-esque adventures of Israel’s kings and prophets.  I played a musical instrument in front of people for the first time there.
I have a little grief about that church being sold.  But it’s a little grief.   That church hasn’t been my “home” for nearly 30 years.  Others are suffering much more.
And when we grieve we tend to feel anger; to look for someone to blame.  I look at the church I grew up in and number off some of the silly decisions they made when I was there.  “If they’d done X instead of Y”, I think, “maybe they’d be doing so well now that they’d be impossible to sell.”
But that’s not true.  The Uniting Church has less active members now than it did thirty years ago, and that was less than thirty years before.  And I wonder whether that’s part of my grief.  Because we’ve made good decisions and bad decisions, and the result seems to be that we impact people’s lives and still they don’t come to worship.
I can feel angry about that or sad, and if I let my worse self have its way I can look for somebody to blame.  But I don’t know that that’s the way forward.
In church lately, we’ve been reading Jeremiah.  His whole community dragged from the city God gave them, crying out in anger and shame, Jeremiah stands and reminds them that their God is their God.  In joy and sadness, in wellbeing and despair, Jeremiah reminds Israel that their God stands with them and will not desert them.  When they can see no way forward, when they ask “Who can we blame?” (and Jeremiah is uncompromising in saying “blame yourselves”) God has a plan that goes way beyond the best God’s people could even dream.
This is the God that we worship.  The God who says “Even in the darkest night, I will be your God, and You will be my people.”  We have been faithful to that God, and it’s right to celebrate the generations of faithfulness that led us to this place.  It’s even right to  feel pain and anger when that faithfulness seems to have been rewarded with loss.  But maybe God still has a plan for us. Maybe we’re being called to be faithful in a new way, a new place.


Source: Gareth

The one who gives us voice

Who are we?
A man once stood before a crowd of people who  “knew” him
for a rogue,
a cheat,
a liar,
a fool.
And after
 sizing up the crowd,
weighing up the consequences
measuring the likely response
His eyes fell on the one who knew him
Who truly, totally and utterly knew him
And in that moment
silence was broken and courage was his.
Who am I?
Not who you all think.
Who are we?
Gathered here in this place…
listening to the voices within
and the voices around
voices telling us who we should be
who we could be
who everybody would like us to be.
Let’s gather
and look to the one who created us
who called us to follow
who gives us voice to speak out.


Source: Gareth

The fascinating, terrifying, life-changing, world-shaking secret

There is a fascinating,
terrifying, life-changing
world-shaking secret
It’s been whispered
for a long time now
from Mother to Son,
Sister to brother,
Grandfather to Granddaughter
And this fascinating,
terrifying, life-changing
world-shaking secret
is sometimes whispered
behind locked doors
in dim rooms
in the middle of the night
And once… a man….
with ridiculous courage
and with reckless disregard for
the consequences of his actions
Stood on a hill
and in booming voice
cried out this fascinating,
terrifying,
life changing
world-shaking secret…
We are made one in God’s love
and there is nothing which divides us.
He stood on a hill and cried it out
and the echo never died.


Source: Gareth

Trust and Obey

The CRE lesson on Thursday was based on the passage in Luke where a 12 year old Jesus sticks around in Jerusalem at the temple.
Mary and Joseph, with extended family go to Jerusalem taking Jesus with them for the passover.  As they head back, Mary thinks he’s with Joseph and Joseph thinks he’s with Mary (as a 12 year old boy, Jesus is right in between being a boy who walks with the women and a man who walks with the men).
Mary and Joseph leave the safety of their travelling companions and head back in alone to find Jesus sitting in the temple discussing faith with the scribes.  When Mary quite reasonably rebukes him for not only making Joseph look like he can’t control his son, but putting the whole family in danger, Jesus says to her “Didn’t you know I’d be in my Father’s house?”
It’s a rich passage that asks many questions. After trying to open up some of its ideas to a group of kids who were bouncing around the room like they’d just eaten their weight in sugar I headed back to see how the other teachers had gone.
“They didn’t know what obeymeans.”, one of the other teachers said to me.
“Mine neither.” I replied… “They’re not bad kids, but so excitable….”
“No.”, she replied… “The word obey.  I don’t think they’d heard it before.”
I don’t know that I’m surprised.  I certainly hadn’t used it in my lesson.
I’d talked with my kids about what it was like  to feel lost, and what it’s like when you can’t find someone you love.  I’d talked about Jesus acting in a way that frightened his parents, and whether that was something the kids felt he should have done, or whether they thought he should have had more care for them.
I’d talked about the story in terms of relationship but I hadn’t used the word obey.  Because I’m not 100% sure it’s always a great thing.  The church has often talked about Jesus being obedient to God, and at points over the years has turned the concept of obedience into a virtue.
But one of the points Luke is making with that story is that it’s sometimes more important who you choose to obey than thatyou choose to obey.  Jesus obeys his heavenly father above his earthly father.  Later, he’s going to obey his heavenly King above his earthly emperor.
Before I teach kids concepts like obedience as a Christian concept, I want them to understand a few other things.  I want them to understand who it is we’re called to obey.  That sometimes obedience to God means strenuous disobedience to other authorities… Unfortunately in this world, there are parents who try to teach their children that they are worth nothing.  There are governments who seek to maintain power through violence and exploitation. 
Hopefully our kids grow up in a world of adults who love them and seek out their wellbeing.  That’s not always the case.  For when it’s not, I hope they follow in Jesus’ path of radical disobedience.


Source: Gareth