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All saints stumble and fall

by the Reverend Clive H Norton

My personal understanding of the mixture of ancient and modern in what we call 'Holy Communion' is that the better name is 'Eucharist'. This is because when Jesus Christ instituted the eating and drinking of bread and wine, as the supreme act for his followers, he 'gave thanks'.

We are taking part in a life-giving and deepening drama, a play that brings to the forefront what is required in our generation. Shakespeare in his play 'Hamlet' (Act 2, scene 2) stated an enduring truth: 'the play's the thing wherein to catch the conscience'.

Over the centuries the meanings and the contexts of words used in the original languages of the Bible have changed. We live now in a world where such changes take place over a few weeks or months. Much of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures is poetry; as we ponder it, new insights and inspirations come to us. Mentally and spiritually we are called to join in the poetry, songs, dancing, fears and hopes of the Liturgy.

Our Anglican Liturgy gives opportunity for the ordered reading of the Holy Scriptures (over a three year cycle) and, as the Church's Year unfolds, the telling of God's purpose for his people in the life, death and resurrection of the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

For All Saints Day the opening Scripture sentence is:

Blessed are you when people hate and revile and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven. (Luke 6:22-23)

The Opening hymn 'Seek, O seek the Lord' (J P McAuley, 1917-76):

Seek, O seek the Lord, while he is near; trust him,
speak to him in prayer, and he will hear.
God be with us in our lives, direct us in our calling;
break the snare the world contrives, keep us from falling.
God, increase in us the life that Christ by dying gave us:
though we faint in mortal strife his blood will save us.

Collect of the Day:

Eternal God, neither death nor life can separate us from your love: grant that we may serve you faithfully here on earth with all your saints who ceaselessly proclaim your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The Old Testament reading is from the Book of Daniel. The scene is set in the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, the Dictator.

Psalm 149:

Praise... sing a new song! ...praise his name with dancing.

Here's a problem for those who try to take the Bible literally! How come that some calling themselves 'Christians' oppose dancing? 'The Lord takes pleasure in his people' (v.4). However verses 6–9 in this Psalm cannot be taken literally. They encourage the taking of vengeance and warfare. Jesus taught a different Way—and he died doing so. Today some speakers—'religious' and 'secular'—get onto modern media and spout their ignorance and reject new discoveries. We cannot be followers of Jesus of Nazareth and allow ourselves to be silenced by those who try to read the Bible so literally and ignore changes discovered by science.

The Epistle is from Ephesians 1:11–23 'In Christ we have obtained an inheritance'. In our generation there are saints. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–45) is recognised in Christian denominations all over the world as a martyr, executed by the Hitler Gestapo just before the end of the war in Europe. Bonheoffer is the author of the hymn 'All go to God':

1. All go to God when they are sorely placed:
they plead to him for help, for peace, for bread,
for mercy, for them sinning, sick or dead.
3. God comes to us when we are sorely placed,
body and spirit feeds us with his bread.
For everyone, he as a man hangs dead: forgiven life he gives all through his death.

The Gospel Reading is Luke 6: 20-31 with the heading 'Blessings and Woes' (New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Jesus looked up at his disciples and said, 'Blessed are you who are poor... hungry... who weep now... when people hate you, exclude you, revile you, defame you on account of the Son of Man... rejoice your reward is in heaven... But woe to you who are rich... who are full now... who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.'

At the Offertory, the hymn 'All saints? How can it be? Can it be me?' by Brian Wren, 1988:

All saints? How can it be? Can it be me, holy and good, walking with God?
How can we say that we're all saints? O that we could!
All saints stumble and fall. God, loving all, knowing our shame, longs to reclaim:
standing or falling we're all saints. Treasure the name!
Come, saints, crowds who have gone beckon us on, hindrances shed,
joy in your tread, one in the Spirit with all saints, looking ahead.

With this Exploration goes my deep thanks to a remarkable woman who died this month, aged 103 years. Mona Birrell was part of a group of distinguished members of the ABC when I came to Australia in 1962. As a British newcomer I was asked to speak on the ABC. Mona took me in hand and taught me the rudiments of clear radio speaking: you are speaking only to ONE person at a time, not to a crowd. I have tried to do that and that is the basic thrust of my Explorations nowadays. To me many people seem to be obsessed by repeating themselves three or four times or more, and with increasing speed, thinking they will convince others by their enthusiasm. I owe much to Mona Birrell and to other mentors who have so deeply shaped my life.

As this Exploration was being prepared, ABC Radio 702 aired something that most Australians may never have heard about. It is encapsulated in a desert location and name Maralinga. Dr Liz Tynan a science writer, and senior lecturer at the James Cook University Graduate Research School has just published Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story (publisher: NewSouth Books). September 2016—60 years since the first British 'mushroom cloud' rose above the plain at Maralinga, South Australia. The atomic weapons test series wreaked havoc on Indigenous communities and turned the land into a radioactive wasteland.

Australia's then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, agreed to provide land and support to the British nuclear test program. It was at Maralinga, the British exploded seven mushroom cloud bombs (the 'major trials'). Elements of the program were shrouded in secrecy. Prior to 1978, most people had never heard of Maralinga. Then whistle-blowers and journalists began to expose the extent of the environmental and human costs of the program. The most appalling outcome was that hundreds of Aboriginal men, women and children in their different tribal groups, were exposed to the nuclear explosions and burned, disabled for life, or died from exposure to nuclear contamination.

The nuclear tests were before the 1967 Referendum which acknowledged Aboriginals were human beings—not just part of flora and fauna. We still, as a nation, do not seem to have learned to beware of secrecy in Government decision-making. We are still pushing aside the indigenous people of this nation, when our governments don't care about people as people.

At the Dismissal, a hymn on Human Rights by Fred Kann, (1929-2009). It sends us out to be concerned with the future of God's world.

For the healing of the nations, Lord we pray with one accord,
for a just and equal sharing of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action help us rise and pledge our word.
Lead us, Father, into freedom, from despair your world release,
that redeemed from war and hatred all may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase.
All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned:
pride of status, race or schooling, dogmas that obscure your plan.
In our common quest for justice may we hallow life's brief span.
You, Creator-God, have written your great name on humankind;
for our growing in your likeness bring the life of Christ to mind;
that by our response and service earth its destiny may find.

St Basil's Church

The Parish of Artarmon prepares to welcome its newly appointed Rector to St. Basil's. He follows in the steps of St Luke, the writer of the third Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles. As a doctor he ministers to the needs of children, women and men at all stages of life. David Lim and Josephene, and many other members of their families, are qualified practicing medicos. Clive Norton said 'We will be fortunate to have their extensive ministries among us, and we will pray for them'.