Rev. Stephen Rothery

10 December 2017

Christmas: An opportunity to break the routine…
Driving on Autopilot… Until something comes up…
So you may not realise this but I do quite a bit of driving in my role here… Not long haul stuff, but lots of short trips around the Redlands. As someone who didn’t grow up here, there was quite a learning curve when I first started, with a heavy dose of Google Maps making things workable, but now I am pretty familiar with most of the routes around the Redlands, into Brisbane, etc. The thing is that I am now familiar enough that I can sort of go into autopilot, where I will jump into the car here in Cleveland, start driving, start thinking about something, and be half way to Brisbane before I notice that I have no real memory of driving for the last 20 minutes, or that I was actually intending to drive to Capalaba… as I drive through Carina…
My point is that we seem to have a way of growing habits around that which is familiar, that which is routine, whether something simple like driving, some standard tasks that we do at work or at home, or even the routine that we follow throughout the week.
It would seem that the vast majority of us are creatures of habit, so much so that once we get into a routine, we can barely notice it, let alone question it. Healthy habits can be helpful, but at the same time our habits and routines can blind us to things that perhaps no longer are…
As we get ready for Christmas, as we take the time to prepare, I would suggest that Christmas presents an opportunity to break the routine, to switch out of autopilot and to take stock of the year that has been. To take stock of the habits, relationships, routines and practices that have become second nature and to ask the question: “Where does God fit in with all of this?”, “how might I make space to reflect Jesus, God with us?”
John the Baptist as someone to help God’s people prepare
The passage we have today comes right at the start of the Gospel of Mark. It may seem a bit strange as it doesn’t really seem to involve Jesus, but rather starts by talking about what sounds like a crazy guy preaching out in the desert.
The thing is that for Jewish people who heard this, this description brief passage would dig up a whole bunch of powerful ideas from their history and what God had been doing in the Old Testament.
You see as we read through the Old Testament and the New Testament, it might not be obvious that that there are several hundred years between them. As you read this description of how John the Baptist dressed, what he ate, it might not be obvious that it is describing him in ways that would cause Jewish hearers to recall the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Even the place that John the Baptist is preaching, out in the wilderness, the a place where you left life was simplified, stripped down to its essentials, were challenged to trust in God, to be faithful and wait in his salvation.
John the Baptist is letting people know that is the story that Jesus is coming to continue, so you need to make sure you are ready, are paying attention.
The thing is that for those who came out to hear John the Baptist, preparing for Jesus birth wasn’t just about reacquainting themselves with the story, it was about taking the time for self-examination, it was about choosing to repent, that to turn away from the broken habits that they had and choosing to publicly commit to living a different way…
Not everyone who went out to hear John the Baptist would have done this. Maybe some were just going out to see the crazy guy that they had heard about, laughing with their friends on the way home about what they had heard and who had said it.
John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus, commanding the attention of God’s people and challenging them to respond, to repent, to be ready for this new thing that God would do through Jesus.
The Birth is not the end, it is only the beginning…
As you are probably aware, Shannan and I recently went through a 9 month period of preparation, of getting ready, followed by Eve being born… To say that this was disruptive to our routine, hobbies, sleep, work, would be an understatement… But the thing is that this disruption provides an opportunity for self-examination, an opportunity to do things differently, to be intentional about what matters to us and how that is reflected in how we behave.
Likewise, for all of us today, as we prepare for Christmas, we need to remember that Jesus birth isn’t the end of the story, it is only the beginning. The time after Christmas doesn’t have to simply involve going back to our previous life and routine, Jesus birth changes everything. Christmas doesn’t simply need to be a time of celebration, but also an opportunity for self reflection, an opportunity to choose to be shaped to be more like Jesus, an opportunity to repent.
During this time of getting ready for Christmas, may you hear the words of John the Baptist who called his hearers to repent, may you to take the time to pause, to take stock and to start a new chapter in response to God’s love and Grace demonstrated through Jesus.
Christmas as an opportunity to break the routine, to find new life, new hope, to seek to be more like Jesus

8 October 2017

Identity… Working for the church is a funny thing when it comes to identity… I mean it is always a bit awkward to be at a social gathering and for people to ask “So what do you do”… I can tell you now, it was far easier being an engineer, I mean at least this…

23 July 2017

Intro As I was reading the parable for today I found myself thinking of times when I was little and would help my parents in pulling out weeds in the yard. The funny thing is that it was something that was usually quite closely supervised. I think this was because little kids, in an effort…