Saturday, August 30, 2008

National Anthems

Thanks to James for commenting on the National Anthem of Australia in my post on Matthew Mitcham.
I am in the process of learning the New Zealand National Anthem "God Defend New Zealand" in preparation for my move. I have sung it at Anzac day ceremonies here and at Gallipoli and attended a Remembrance day service at the cathedral in Dunedin on my last visit so it is not new to me but I have now learnt the English words and am working on the Maori which is always sung first (and is not easy).
Here sung by The New Zealand National Youth Choir with great pictures

Then I had to search to find something similar for Australia's anthem "Advance Australia Fair". Here is Julie Anthony who I think sings it best with some more pictures.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Liturgy and Ritual

I am concerned that people reading my post on +Forsyth's visit to St James might think I am overly concerned with his involvement or otherwise in the ritual. I really would not mind if he had refused to take part in any of it although I think as our bishop he should be prepared to accommodate some aspects as he did. It is his and the other bishop's refusal to accept +Gene Robinson or even meet and take communion with those who consecrated him that concerns me. The Gafcon bishops are attempting to split the Anglican Communion possibly for many reasons but are using GLBT people as their whipping boy. This is why I oppose and avoid them.

I grew up in this evangelical diocese at a time when it was evangelical but recognisably Anglican. If any one had told me then that one day I would be worshipping and participating in high church ritual I would have thought them mad. However I did learn to love the Anglican liturgy, the robed choirs, the chants and the beautiful 1662 prayer book.
As a youth leader I organised youth services at evening prayer once a month. We probably horrified our elders with guitars and modern music but the basic order of service was not changed. My rector insisted that as a leader in the church, Holy Communion was not to be neglected. While I believed it was mainly a memorial service, I also believed that something special happened and this required consecration by an ordained (in those days) man.

I have a close friend who since his retirement from teaching has taken the role of leadership in a small Uniting church (The Uniting Church of Australia was formed in the 1970's by combining the Methodists, Congregationalists and some Presbyterians). He is very happy that after a year of study he is now allowed to conduct a Communion service in his church. I am happy for him and would be glad to attend some day. I would see it as just a memorial service (as does he) so it would not satisfy me on a regular basis but am sure this different view will not cause our loving God to reject either one of us.

While I love the 1662 service, I realise it had to be modernised but I do miss the Prayer of Humble Access which is so meaningful.

I think it is wonderful that I can travel to NZ, Europe and USA and still worship in much the same way. There are of course subtle differences but the service is essentially the same. However it grieves me that several people have told me they have migrated from England or even moved interstate in Australia to Sydney and feel completely lost in the average Anglican church in Sydney. One man told me he felt he had finally come home again when he first attended St James. I sometimes think it is false advertising to have the name "Anglican" outside these churches.

When I began to work in Catholic schools, I felt I should be involved in the worship program of the school and began to learn the rituals involved so I found myself recognising the altar and making the sign of the cross. I began to believe that something even more important happened when the bread and wine is consecrated. I am very fuzzy on my thinking here. I do not believe it becomes the actual Body and Blood of Christ (with all the problems of spillage etc) but like the concept (which I think is Lutheran) that it changes in some real way as it enters the communicant by the act of eating and drinking. So it becomes the Body and Blood TO ME (and obviously my fellow communicants).
I did not like the usual practice of receiving only the bread in the Catholic services but was often amused that when offered in both kinds at staff retreats it was usually mainly the Anglican staff members who took the wine.
By the way, a Jesuit priest told me that as a member of the school community I was welcome to partake although I know not all the priests would have agreed.

I find that the ritual gives more meaning to me and also helps to keep me focused. I would prefer to kneel during the consecration but this is not done at St James. I do kneel to receive and standing and kneeling at this time is about half and half in our congregation. Perhaps kneeling will be less possible as I age. My sister, being older than me, does not kneel at any part of the service but still does to receive. She tells me she prefers not to make the sign of the cross etc as she does not know what to do and this is okay by me.

So I have no complaint about evangelical forms of worship as the 34th article says "It is not necessary that Traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like."
I just ask that they be recognisably Anglican, usually follow the Lectionary in their program of teaching and be willing to recognise that others within the communion will prefer different rituals and are not to be condemned for so doing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Hero

OK, I know I have issues with the Olympics and wish my country was not so sports mad. There are so many other important things for a country to be proud of than winning at sport. Australians have made medical advances and an Australian is currently in charge of Medecins Sans Frontiers. I recently saw a program on Dr Catherine Hamlin AC who has given her life to helping women with Fistula in Ethiopia. I often say these are the real heroes we should be celebrating.

However, just for a day or two, I am going to be a hypocrite and sing the praises of Matthew Mitcham who snatched the diving gold medal in Beijing last Saturday night. He is an Aussie and he is openly gay. He seems to be a nice young man and beautiful to boot :-)
So often we see Olympic champions thanking and embracing their spouse or special friend of the opposite sex, just for once it is great to see someone proudly acknowledging their same sex partner.

I went

Thank you for all the advice and support.
I went to St James yesterday for the baptisms, confirmation and acceptance service despite the presence of Bishop Robert Forsyth. The service was long, 2 hour 10 minutes, and packed but I enjoyed it very much. I discovered all the people involved were not from our church but also several nearby parishes. There were 2 baptisms, one for a baby which I felt could have been at some other time. We often have baptisms as St James is a society church and many people want their children 'done' there. You can always tell when there is a large group in the front pews who are obviously lost in the service. The priest usually parades around the church with the baby to many 'oohs and aahs" for which there was no time yesterday. A young woman was also baptised and later confirmed. This was my first attendance at an adult baptism and quite emotional for me. Ten young people were confirmed and 3 older people including one man from our choir were accepted from other churches. When I was confirmed many years ago, it was the done thing for young people whose family attended the 'Church of England' and while I found it important in my spiritual life, for most of the others it was just another society event. I think there were about 40 and we were confirmed 2 at a time in a mid-week service so not as personal as yesterday when each were confirmed by name and their sponsor stood behind them.

I was pleased with Bishop Forsyth. A lady told me beforehand that when ++Jensen visited he stood bolt upright while the rest of the people at the altar bowed. Bishop Forsyth at least bowed his head at the correct times and made the sign of the cross during the blessing. He also carried a bishop's crook which I have not seen in Sydney before. He really got the works, being St Bartholomew day, as we only use incense on such days. The kyries are sung in Greek and the Gloria, Sanctus and motets are sung in Latin. However I noticed he was singing the 'Laudate Dominum' as they processed to and from the font. I was very surprised that he used the oil of Chrism to mark the sign of the cross on the forehead of each candidate. That was not done when I was confirmed in an evangelical church.

He preached on the gospel for St Bartholomew. He did comment that his photo was on the front of the newsheet (the icon of St Bartholomew) to raise a laugh. He also began by quoting from his friend Bishop Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham. The sermon was evangelistic but this is okay occasionally, my problem is when the preacher tries to convert the faithful week after week as often happens in Sydney churches. I felt it a little ironic that the quote from Bishop Wright was about God not being a vengeful God who is a 'spy in the sky'. I did leave by the side door rather than shake hands. I had my pink triangle badge in my pocket but decided to be discrete and left it there. I cannot forget that he is a gafcon bishop who will not take communion with those who consecrated Bishop Gene Robinson.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I have received honours from Grendel who really is the bestest dog in the whole world - (the Arte Y Pico Award) and also Father Christian Troll (Kick Ass Bloggers). While feeling highly honoured, I do not think I will follow the rules and pass them on. I could give them to any of those in my blog list on the right. I visit them frequently and gain much information and insight from them. However I am not sure who has already received the awards so will just give my awards to all of them. There are other blogs I would like to add but I am spending far too much time at the computer as it is.

I also feel highly honoured by all those who answered my request in the last post but especially Elizabeth Keaton. I am honoured that such a wonderful person even visits my blog let alone takes time to advise.

At the moment I will go, but I did not sleep well last night thinking about it. For many years I sat through sermons wondering if this was to be the one which would insult my sexuality and cause me to storm out. It is so wonderful now to know that I am in an inclusive church that welcomes " all people regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or religion" I guess +Forsyth will not preach a controversial sermon and even if he did I would know I am surrounded by those who support me, however I will be nervous all the same.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shall I go?

I need advice.
As I am sure you all know, I worship at St James, King Street in Sydney which is a 2 hour train ride away. I do enjoy it and, although I sometimes groan when the alarm goes at 5am on Sunday morning, I receive many blessings once there.

Every few months CityRail decides to carry out trackwork on the weekend and replace trains with buses. I am quite happy in the train, seats are comfortable and I read the Sunday papers but I hate buses. The journey would increase to nearly 3 hours each way and I have never been able to read in a bus.
That was last weekend so I stayed home and relaxed.

I was upset to read the church notices and see that next weekend is adult baptism, confirmation and reception and therefore the visiting preacher will be the Bishop of South Sydney (our regional bishop) +Robert Forsyth.
Like all the bishops of Sydney, he is a fundamentalist, has made homophobic statements, boycotted Lambeth and attended GAFCON. If it was the Archbishop ++Peter Jensen, you would need to drag me there with wild horses. Even so, I will not shake Bishop Forsyth's hand but could duck out the side door. However I do not think I could even sit through his sermon.

We often have Bishops from other dioceses preaching at our important occasions such as Easter, Patronal festival and even the dedication of our new bells. I guess they must have our own bishop to officiate at confirmation, it is the only time I have known him to attend. I do not know how he takes the ritual and preaches under a crucifix. I am sure he will not preside at the eucharist, he would be completely lost.

On the other hand, it is an important occasion for the parish. There are 12 names on the list, I am not sure how many for each of adult baptism, confirmation or acceptance, and I feel I should be part of the congregation for these people although I do not personally know any of them by name. I also do not like going 3 weeks without the Eucharist although I only attended once in the 8 weeks I was in Europe but had no real choice then.

What shall I do?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Caananite Woman

Again it is wonderful to read sermons from around the world on the same gospel reading. Doorman-Priest is spending time at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Tallinn, Estonia. He writes about his time there as well as posting a thought provoking sermon. I am posting the photos I took last May so we have some picture of the surroundings in which he is preaching.

and please also read the sermon preached by J. Michael Povey in Povey Prattle
it ends with a wonderful poem
He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
("Outwitted" by Edwin Markham)

Also please pray for him and others in Florida as a Hurricane (we call them Cyclones) approaches.

Monday, August 18, 2008


The video below is an advertisement which is apparently showing on US television. I find it quite emotional. There is something upsetting about seeing what is meant to be the most wonderful day of a woman's life being ruined. That lesbians (and gay men) cannot experience that day in most countries is a blot on society which is only very slowly being changed.

I have been "best man" at a wedding 3 times which seems to prove the old saying 3 times a bridesmaid never a bride may be correct :-).
Twice it was a Christian wedding and both ended in divorce!!! Once for a colleague which only lasted about 18 months and the end did not surprise me. He was a fanatic for detail and cleanliness and could not abide change to plans whatever the cause. We actually worked well together on projects when I was in charge. I had the grand plans and if it was necessary to change, I overrode his objections while he was very good at making sure the plans were carried out in minute detail. However I was not surprised that the lady found it difficult especially as she was much younger and had been a student of ours. I have not seen him for many years but do not think he remarried although he became Principal of an important high school.

The other (actually the first) was a guy with whom I grew up, having lived 2 doors away. He was a student at Moore College and became a priest. They stayed together for many years and had 2 grown up children before the divorce. I lost contact with him but believe the divorce and remarriage was a real brake on his progression within the diocese of Sydney. Knowing their religious views, I do not think either of these men would be happy to know I am gay.

The third time (lucky) was for a guy who openly claims he is an atheist and I felt a little uncomfortable supporting his marriage in a church. However I have kept in contact, although we live about 200km apart, and he is still happily married with 4 children and several grandchildren. When I came out to him several years after the marriage the reply was "I have known that for a long time" and he calls me "big brother" ( I am more than 10 years his senior) and gives me a big hug when we meet (but draws the line at kiss).

I was encouraged to find a nice girl and get married by psychiatrists who were treating me for my disorder. I followed their advice and became engaged which at least stopped the treatment developing in ways which I believe psychologically harmed other gay men I have since met. I did not return to tell them I had broken the engagement. That was traumatic enough but although she was a lovely woman, I realised there would be a problem when I found myself regretting leaving my male friends to take her out and we sat on a church hayride, holding hands while the other couples were doing much more around us in the hay.
Breaking an engagement in those days was serious, my family turned against me (even Mum for a while) and it took many years before she did marry. Her mother and mine exchanged Christmas cards for the rest of Mum's life.

There was an article in this weekend's magazine "The Good Weekend". Unfortunately not on line. It is titled "Fairytale Marriage" and begins:
The perfect couple, the beautiful kids, the picket fence. It's the dream existence - until the wife finds out it's all based on a lie. This story is on the gay men married to straight women - and what happens when they finally come out of the closet.

Some other parts (my bold):
For religious, family or social reasons, some men don't come out. Some churches still tell them they can overcome their feelings. Others feel if they get married young, their desires for men will be lost in domestic bliss. Then there are those who are married for years before they realise that, while they somehow relate to Victoria Beckham, it's David they fancy.


"you've no idea how big this scene is, I see fathers with their kids at junior soccer in the mountains (my area) who I've seen on the beats - we give each other a knowing nod."


The men can move on with their lives more easily, but it is pretty tough for a woman with three young kids whose ex-husband is off having a lovely time with his new boyfriend after having discovered his "true self".

It is all very sad reading. Some of the men try to do the right thing, eg keep up a social front until the kids grow up but have separate bedrooms and go out with their men friends. But what sort of a life is that for the wife? Others leave the wife to bring up the kids and take off for their new life.
I can never come out to my sister's best friend as she has another close friend who has been left to bring up her children in poverty while her wealthy ex-husband (a medical doctor) lives with his boy friend. Her views of gay men are naturally jaundiced as a result.

I refused to have a relationship with a man who was a pillar in local society with his wife and 2 kids and wanted me on the side. I admit I was mainly thinking of myself, still left to live and socialise alone while he to my mind had the best of both worlds.

What a f...ed up world it is and the church does not help.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Musings

It is nearly 4pm, the official temperature at Katoomba (about 400 metres higher at 1,015 metres or 3,000 feet) is 1.4'C so probably about 4'C here. Snow forecast up there and down to 600 metres which is here but I will believe it when I see it. Have lived here nearly 27 years and only seen snow on ground twice, once, fairly heavy, on July 4, 1984, the other time there was just a patch remaining in the shade of the house when I arrived home.
We have just had a heavy shower of rain and yes the forums are saying there was snow up at Katoomba.(grrr) It has always frustrated me that it is nearly as cold here but I miss all the fun. One of the many reasons I am looking forward to moving to Dunedin, NZ is that it sometimes snows down to sea level and I am looking at homes about 250 metres asl. However the vicar of the local church has just blogged
It was a very cold day. The water left from yesterday's rain was frozen and Dunedin streets were treacherous. Given that going out this morning meant that bones were guaranteed to be chilled and risked being broken, many opted to stay home and watch the Olympics instead. We had 8 people in church at 8am and about 90 at 10 am, well down on our usual muster.

Our service at St James was the smallest number I can remember on a Sunday but the whole city was rather quiet except for near the front of the church where 70,000 were gathering for the annual city to surf (14km) run. It makes it almost impossible to drive to church due to road closures so that combined with the cold weather would have kept numbers down. Father John commented that while so many were running (walking) to the sea, the gospel was on Jesus walking on the sea.

I enjoyed listening to his sermon and coming home to read the sermons by Madpriest, Doorman-Priest and Sister Judith Schenck on The Three-Legged Stool (4 different countries). Each had a different slant. Isn't it wonderful that the Anglican church round the world has the same readings except for most churches here in Sydney which pay no heed to the Church lectionary. One lady told us yesterday at the AGM for Anglicans Together that she had to explain to her Rector (recent Moore College graduate) what Lent meant?????

I have made 2 train journeys down to the city this weekend as the AGM was held in our church hall. Luckily, as a Senior citizen, the government allows me to travel all over Sydney and surrounding areas (I am 80km away) for just $2.50 per day.
I was pleased to hear they will soon be updating the Anglicans Together website which has been static for 2 years. I was disappointed to hear the annual dinner will be on October 31, the day I fly to Dunedin (not permanently yet).

While waiting on the platform for the train home, I heard a crash and a yell. At first I thought someone had fallen down the stairs but when I went to look, a young man was lying on the ground obviously in an epileptic fit. What shocked me was that everyone (mainly young people) was just looking and I had to run past about 20 people to reach him. A man did come the other way and had his phone out so I asked him to call the ambulance which I think he was about to do. A lady arrived soon afterwards and then the station staff began to arrive although the first looked hopeless but another arrived and ran for medical kit when I pointed out he was bleeding although not badly. Railway police then arrived and so did my train so I left but it does shake one up a bit. As a retired teacher I have some idea what to do but my first aid certificate is well outdated now. I just could not stand and look while there was no-one trying to help.

It is our annual cleanup this weekend. (The local council collects any junk we put out)
I am a terrible hoarder and have a huge area under my house (enclosed) to store junk. I cannot take it to NZ so it must go.
It is amazing what scavengers will collect. My sister stored a set of suitcases which I think she used for her honeymoon in 1961. You know the type, so heavy and rigid, it would take up half one's air allowance by itself. The hinges were all rusty. She said to throw them and they were scavenged in 10 minutes. Two old record players also went.
I have hundreds of plastic pots from when I was developing my garden, always intending to propagate, out they must go.

Tomorrow is my weekly bush walk with seniors. They are starting in my local area so I will not have to even spend $2.50 for a train, although they will be finishing at the next town up the line so it will be a 3km walk back home making about 12km in all with some steep climbs. Perhaps if there has been a decent snow dump up the mountain I may change my plans.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Poor Sydney Diocese

I received an invitation to an episcopal dialogue between Bishop David Walker of The Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay and Bishop Glenn Davies, Assistant Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney to hear them discuss the topic “Is the Pope a means to, or an impediment to, Christian Unity?”

I do not think I would agree with either and as it is in the evening (Wednesday 3rd September at 7.30pm) a long way from home I am unlikely to attend.

However it is being held at St John's Gordon and this reminded me that a lady recently told me she worshipped there and it is inclusive (like St James, she said). So I decided to google it. This search was unsuccessful but 'Gordon' and 'Anglican' brought up links to Rev Gordon Cheng with whom I have had words over his sarcastic comments about Heath Ledger in the Sydney Morning Herald at the time of Heath's death.

The link I found was to a blog called 'Sydney Anglican Heretics'. Sounds interesting, I thought and surfed on over. Yes it is full of criticism of Jensen and Moore College claiming they abandon Christian orthodoxy BUT this is because they deny "creationism"!!!! These bloggers (there appears to be several) believe in taking Genesis literally.

I really do not think anyone's acceptance by God depends on their view of evolution and creation. My only problem is the harm such people do to the name of Christianity. So many reject such obvious unintelligent views and sadly throw out the whole notion of God at the same time.

I do not think the blogger at "Sydney Anglican Heretics" will welcome me and feel slightly sorry for the Jensenites being attacked from two sides. However only slightly sorry.

My Theology

According to a test to which I was guided by Episcopal Padre
However I do not think I am alienated from older forms of church just because I answered that young people may be. Not being young anymore myself, I love the older forms. I think the rest is true, am relieved I am only 4% fundamentalist, must work on getting rid of that :-)

What's your theological worldview?
created with
You scored as Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


Reformed Evangelical






Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Feeding the Five Thousand

As promised Michael Horsburgh's sermon at St James as published in pdf on the St James website. Also please read Doorman-Priest's sermon on this same topic. So many aspects to consider. The paragraphing and highlighting is mine.

A sermon preached by Associate Professor Michael Horsburgh in Saint James’ Church, King Street, Sydney, on the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, 3 August 2008

I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you. 2
So says Shylock to Bassanio in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. As a Jew, Shylock will not eat with Gentiles. Given the anti-Semitism that underlies Shakespeare’s play, there may be some wisdom in his reluctance, but that is not its source. Rather, he will not eat with Gentiles for religious reasons. This is most clearly shown in his linking of eating, drinking and praying. He will join them in the ordinary activities of commercial life but he will neither eat nor pray with them. One cannot help thinking that the words might also have been said by those bishops staying away from the Lambeth Conference.

But I come to this quotation by way of beginning our thoughts about this morning’s gospel.
Jesus is followed into a deserted place by a large crowd, said to be comprised of five
thousand men plus the accompanying women and children. As evening approached, the disciples came to Jesus, concerned about feeding such a large crowd. They asked Jesus to send them away. Jesus replied that they should feed the crowd themselves, to which they replied that they have very little food. Jesus asked them to bring what they have to him. He blessed the food, broke it and distributed it to the crowd. Everyone was fed and there were twelve baskets of leftovers.
This is surely an authentic story; it appears in all four gospels.3 Matthew and Mark also have a parallel story of the feeding of four thousand, which is arguably a repetition of the same event.4
In that case, there are six accounts of the same miracle, which makes the story not
only authentic but very important. The stories all have similar contents, including the need to feed the multitude, the discovery of a small amount of food, and the large quantity of leftovers.

Now is, of course, the time to ask the quintessentially modern question: what actually
happened here? I say that this is a modern question only because we are the ones who are in search of explanations. We ought not to think that the gospel writers and their hearers and readers were either stupid or gullible. They knew as well as we do that five loaves and two fishes cannot feed over five thousand people and leave so much still to be eaten. Only their knowledge of the unusual nature of the event could account for its being remembered and written down. After all, if this happened every day, it would be commonplace. They knew that this was a miracle but they did not have our thirst for scientific explanation. Neither did they discount things that they could not explain or imagine that there must be an explanation, if only they could find it. We might say that they had more faith than we do or, to put it more exactly, they gave a different significance to such events.
While we might think that our predecessors failed to ask the obvious questions, we need to learn from them how to invest these stories with a true significance. We must not allow our quite proper question and its possible answers to obscure the meaning of the story.

Five different kinds of answers have been given to what actually happened. The first is that it happened exactly as it is recorded; Jesus made the small amount of food go around everyone.
The second explanation derives from Albert Schweitzer, who suggested that this was a
prototype sacrament in which small amounts were distributed to everyone and the story became inflated over time.
Third, this was a lesson in unselfishness and, following the example of Jesus, everyone shared the food they had brought with them.
Fourth, this story is a development of a time when Jesus and his followers survived on short rations in the desert.
These four explanations acknowledge that there was a real basis to the story but the fifth suggestion is that it has no factual basis. It is instead an allegory of the Eucharist and the fulfilment of all things when Jesus returns.5

I don’t know whether any of these accounts impresses you but I want this morning to
consider one discussion that is of the third kind of explanation: the lesson in unselfishness.
Some scholars consider this to be too facile an explanation to have any credibility. In part this is due to the idea that such a simple explanation can hardly account for the importance that the story has in the gospel record. While selfishness is a common human trait, so also is altruism. And while an occasion on which one overcomes the other might be noticeable, it is hardly miraculous. But the Catholic author Gil Bailie6 takes an importantly different slant to this explanation by setting it within its New Testament cultural context. Bailie begins with noting the significance of sharing food in the Jewish community of Jesus’ day; it was a dangerous activity.

The gospel of Mark, chapter 7, reports an incident in which the Pharisees berate Jesus
because his disciples ate food without first washing their hands. The gospel includes several verses explaining the Pharisees’ rules about washing. Whilst we might regard this as a quite proper sanitary practice, the Pharisaic objection is not that their hands were unwashed in our sense, but that they were defiled by possible contact with ritually unclean things. Thus the food they touched would also be defiled and its eating would render their bodies defiled. The possibility of such ritual defilement was very real and its consequences severe, requiring ritual cleansing and additional sacrifices.
Scrupulous persons had also to be careful of whom they dined with. This is why the
Pharisees were so concerned that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, including, it appears, prostitutes. Leviticus required ritual cleansing after sexual activity, so prostitutes were bound to be ritually unclean, having too much sex too frequently. As Bailie points out, Jesus was making a significant statement by his flouting of these rules: The meals Jesus shared with the outcasts were not, therefore, simply the occasion for the delivery of his message. They were the message. They served as “prophetic signs” meant to manifest the meaning of Jesus’ ministry.7
That meaning was the inclusion of the outcast in the kingdom.
Now we come to the hungry crowd in the deserted place. Bailie says:
… most religious-minded Jews of the time would have taken the precaution of bringing with them enough bread or dried fish to insure that they would not be forced to eat food whose ritual purity was in doubt. But taking the precaution of bringing a supply of ritually clean food would have been only one hurdle, and perhaps not the largest one. For eating these provisions while in the company of others of uncertain moral and religious character would have placed one in jeopardy of moral contamination from sinners and pagans. The fact that Jesus had a reputation for attracting and tolerating the socially marginal would have added to the anxiety of observant Jews in this regard. Not knowing the moral and religious status of those sitting nearby would have made many reluctant to bring out whatever provisions they had with them.
That this barrier could and should be broken down was Jesus’ suggestion. Bailie concludes:
By now the reader will have guessed what I think the miracle was. Jesus opened their hearts, and they, in turn, opened their satchels, and the greatest miracle of all occurred. Following a pattern that is still today embedded in the Catholic Mass, Jesus preached of a God of love and forgiveness and then invited those who heard his message to sit down together and live for a moment in the “kingdom” about which he was preaching.

So we can see that Bailie not only uses the third type of explanation, that of overcoming reticence about sharing, he links the miracle directly to the eucharist, making an allegory out of the reality, which is the fifth kind of explanation.
Whether or not you find this account satisfactory is not the point of my sermon this morning.

I want to go on from this explanation and explore how the miracle seen in this way can illumine our faith journey. My starting point is to note that the single most significant aspect of the divisions within Christianity and within the Anglican Communion is a reluctance to join others at the Lord’s Table. The services in this church contain an invitation to all baptised Christians to join us in communion. That invitation is itself a remarkable thing. It cannot be made in Orthodox or Roman Catholic services. It will not be made in sectarian meetings where close attention is paid to judging the worthiness of communicants. In the meetings of Anglican Primates those dissatisfied with the Episcopal Church for its consecration of Gene Robinson first decline to receive communion alongside the Episcopal Church Primate. By inventing the peculiar doctrine of ‘episcopal taint’, some Anglicans exclude bishops who have ordained women as well as both the men and women they have ordained. We need to note that the concept of ‘tainted hands’ is almost exactly the concept of ritual defilement against which Jesus argued.

One of the characteristics of such ritual exclusions as the Pharisees exercised is a high degree of uncertainty about one’s acceptability to God. Far from living as persons accepted by God’s grace, such people see themselves as having to achieve acceptability. It is inevitable in such a case that the exclusion of others becomes a way of achieving one’s own inclusion.
Another way of putting this is speak of identity. Only a sure identity can withstand the
temptation of uncertainty. In Jesus’ day, observant Jews found themselves in an increasingly cosmopolitan world. Perforce they had to associate with Gentiles and with their fellow Jews who succumbed to the foreign ways. They thought that it was imperative to insist on ever stricter standards in order to preserve their cultural identity. In some ways their reaction was similar to that of some Islamic communities today. It is, however, ironic that their identity, which is an interior thing, found itself turning to external observances for support.

In the light of this, we need to understand what great danger we are in when we exclude others or cut ourselves off from converse with those with whom we disagree. This morning’s gospel teaches us at least that.

If we need more confirmation, we might turn briefly to this morning’s story of Jacob
wrestling with the angel. While researching this story I came across a reference to
Rembrandt’s painting of the scene. Not surprisingly, this has been a popular subject for artists. Most depict two muscular men struggling together, one of them with wings.
Rembrandt’s painting is quite different. Far from engaging in an epic battle, the two
protagonists are almost in an embrace. One commentator says that they are dancing rather than wrestling. The angel looks at Jacob with compassion and love, while Jacob reluctantly turns to look at his assailant. This struggle is not about overcoming or being overcome. It is about being loved by God and about the transformed identity that God’s love brings. Its outcome is a new name for Jacob and, on the next day, reconciliation with his brother.8
The uncertain and fearful Jacob is transformed by this encounter with God just as the uncertain and fearful hearers were transformed by Jesus in this morning’s gospel. Both by invitation and by gift, our identity is transformed by the God who loves us. How then will we dare not to share our table? How then will we dare to imagine that the love that transforms us is not present with others?

1 Readings: Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 16; Romans 9:1-8; Matthew 14:13-21.
2 William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene iii, line 36.
3 See Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13.
4 See Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-10.
5 See
6 See
7 Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads, pp. 212-215. New York: Crossroad, 1995.
8 See also Walter Brueggemann, and Claire Amos,

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Starbucks closing, Hooray

In 2001, on a Sunday morning in Auckland, I visited my first Starbucks. They were already in Sydney but not located where I hung out. However I was not impressed.

Occasionally I have visited the one at Circular Quay after the afternoon Symphony at the Opera House (about 4pm) because the other coffee shops nearby have closed catering mainly for the officeworker trade, are too expensive (tourist trade) or have nowhere sheltered to sit. Lately we have preferred to go without, the coffee is awful.

I did visit one at LA airport and another in the Garden District of New Orleans in 2007 and both times the experience was even worse than the Quay. "Dishwater" comes to mind.
Now they are closing 61 0f the 84 stores in Australia, sadly not the one at the Quay, I guess the tourists will keep it open.

I agree with the comments in the Herald. A nearby Gloria Jeans (my preferred chain) manager to one branch that is closing.
He said he did not expect his business to benefit from the closure of the nearby Starbucks because the customers who went there were "not interested in real coffee anyway".

and another comment from a customer

"why would you want to sit around a pretend lounge room drinking a weak and expensive coffee, when you can go around the corner and have the real thing?"

The Herald writer concluded.
In my view, the key reason that they have been so unsuccessful in Australia is their inability to adjust to local market conditions. While the company's British and Asia expansion took it to markets without strong coffee traditions, Australia, with its history of European immigration, was always going to be a test. Starbucks has been trying to sell a watered down product in one of the most sophisticated and lively coffee markets in the world.

Why I just love ordering 'un expresso" in Paris and yes, the Turkish coffee in Istanbul was heavenly. Another of the many reasons to be thankful for Australia's migration program.