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Comrie St,
Wanniassa ACT
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Whose House

Are there any wine buffs in the congregation? (Thought there might be...) One of my favourite wines is unfortunately no longer made. It was the Stanton and Killeen Special Old Liquor Muscat and drinking it was like biting into alcoholic raisins. It tasted of summer and richness and abundance.

Every wine has terroir, which is a French word that describes the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a food or drink by the environment in which it is produced. Every wine is produced by a house, and every house has a signature which is influenced by its terroir.  Stanton and Killeen is from Rutherglen, and the full flavour and depth of Rutherglen’s fortified wines comes about in part because of a combination of the same heat degree days as the Clare Valley in South Australia, and the same number of sunshine hours as Queensland’s Gold Coast. The grapes for the fortified wines are grown on a band of loam which skates around the lower slopes of the region’s hills. (This band of loam is very different to the Black Dog fine sandy loam which is found around the Rutherglen wineries which are nearer to the Murray River. )

Believe it or not, this leads me to the reading from Samuel.

This Advent 4 reading is a bit of a trip down memory lane, back to when God established a house for themself. Who could build this house for God? Could the great and wonderful King David build the house? Yeah, nah.

 David was upset that he was “living in a palace of cedar while the ark of God remains in a tent”. David was going to fix this! But God has a different plan. “Are you the one to build a house for me to dwell in? ... I will provide a place for my people Israel... The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you”. God would be the one to build God’s house, not with David or by David but of David. If you read on further in this chapter, you discover a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ – “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my name.” On the surface, that looks like David’s son Solomon is the one to fulfil the prophecy. He’s the one who builds the temple in Jerusalem after all.

But the temple of Solomon was destroyed. This is no physical building that God is talking about. They are talking about incarnation – their physical presence in human flesh. Immanuel. When we read this prophecy with Jesus in mind, we see that David would be the soil from which the True Vine, Jesus Christ would grow. God would establish a unique signature – a distinct flavour – God’s own terroir – that would be left with all who drank of it from generation to generation.   That leaves us with some important questions to ponder. What is the signature flavour of God’s house? What is the environment which creates that terroir? What makes God’s house unique? What makes it relevant? In a sea of houses – houses of power, privilege, authority, ambition, attraction – what is it about this house that stands out?

 Let’s explore that concept of terroir a little further and see if we can find the terroir of the Uniting Church in Australia. A logical place to start that exploration this week is with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which recently released its final report. To quote from the report: “The commission conducted 30 case studies on religious institutions. These case studies revealed that many religious leaders knew of allegations of child sexual abuse yet failed to take effective action. Some ignored allegations and did not respond at all. Some treated alleged perpetrators leniently and failed to address the obvious risks they posed to children. Some concealed abuse and shielded perpetrators from accountability. Institutional reputations and individual perpetrators were prioritised over the needs of victims and their families.”

 Was the Uniting Church exempt from allegations of child sexual abuse? No. Uniting Church institutions, including schools and foster homes, have been the subject of more than 2500 allegations or incidents of child sexual abuse over the past 40 years. 255 people have made claims against the church, which has paid $17.5 million in settling child sexual abuse cases. So the best we can claim in terms of terroir here is that perhaps we weren’t as bad as some other churches. I don’t know about you, but that’s not something that I can be proud of and it’s not something that I can use to promote my church.

 Something that I can and do use to define the terroir of the Uniting Church is our focus on social justice and advocacy.

In the inaugural worship service of the Uniting Church in 1977, we were urged “to engage in a fearless prophetic ministry in relation to social evils which deny God’s will for justice and peace and to act with God alongside the oppressed, the hurt and the poor”. Our inaugural statement to the nation says that “We pledge ourselves to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur. We will work for the eradication of poverty and racism within our society and beyond. We affirm the rights of all people to equal educational opportunities, adequate health care, freedom of speech, employment or dignity in unemployment if work is not available. We will oppose all forms of discrimination which infringe basic rights and freedoms.” 

 On the website of our Synod you will find these words. “Since its inception, the Uniting Church has believed that working for social justice, peace and the environment is part of our response to the gospel of Jesus and integral to Christian discipleship. The Uniting Church is committed to valuing the inherent dignity of all people. Our vision is for a reconciled world. We pursue justice and peace through mission, service and advocacy, as well as worship, witness and education. It is our response to the Bible’s call to care for and protect the marginalised and vulnerable.”

 That’s not to say that other churches don’t have an awareness of social justice and advocacy – of course they do. But one of the great things about the Uniting Church in Australia is the fact that this social justice and advocacy is central to the terroir of the Church nationally and has been throughout the history of the Church.  If we bring this closer to home, what is the terroir of Tuggeranong Uniting Church? What is the taste that this church leaves in the mouths of the people that come to us? As we prepared our Parish Profile, we did some reflecting on this point. The profile that we have prepared and which has been given to potential ministers, says that we are a church that is inclusive, open to new ideas, caring and nurturing, speaking up for justice and welcoming. In our profile, we talked about having a focus on mission and service, on advocacy and being more intentional in building a vibrant, life-transforming Christian community. This is not something that can be left on hold until our new minister arrives. Nor is this something that can be left up to the Church Council. We are all the church, and we must work together to achieve a community that overflows with the presence of God.

 Let’s bring this even closer to home. What about us individually? We have all been shaped by our environments, and through that we have grown and developed our own unique beings. And in many ways, we are just like King David. Hopefully not in the spying on women in the bath, impregnating them, and plotting to kill their husbands kind of way. But we do need to acknowledge that like David we are flawed individuals; we have strengths, and we have weaknesses, and God will use all these things as they build themselves a house within us.

 Let’s not let ourselves get all caught up in what we are going to do to make a house that is worthy of God. Instead, let’s focus again on simply being open to God. Let’s remember to bit a bit more like the Mary Dorothea spoke about last week – stepping forth into God’s reality with all of her being, for the rest of her life. Accepting the charge to mother God themself – “let it be with me according to your word”. As in the reading from Samuel, let us focus on the fact that God has been with us wherever we have gone, and will be with us wherever we go.

 Last week in the late service we sang a song by Tim Hughes called ‘God of Justice’. There are some words in that song that speak to the terroir of our lives – “You have shown us, what you require. Freely we’ve received now freely we will give. We must go. Live to feed the hungry. Stand beside the broken. We must go. Stepping forward, keep us from just singing. Move us into action. We must go.”

At Christmas time it’s a little bit too easy to find ways to be a house for God – to show love, joy, peace and hope. There are so many charities and appeals available to us at this time of year. But this close to Christmas, I’d like to encourage you do take some time to be more proactive about sharing love throughout 2018. Come back to the inaugural statement; pledge yourself to the correction of injustice wherever it occurs. If all of us adopted even half of what is listed in the inaugural statement as a creed for our living, we would change the world. Set yourself a goal for purposeful loving. Build a house where love may dwell. And make it all about God, rather than all about you.

AMEN.

 

 

Megan Jackson

Megan Jackson has attended TUC since 1988.  She has been an elder, a Sunday School teacher and is currently deputy chair of the church council.  Megan assists in leading Rainbow Christian Alliance.

Megan and Doug lead worship at the later TUC service most Sundays, where they are blessed to share their gifts of music and song with the congregation.

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P: (02) 6231 0488
F: (02) 6296 3403

Comrie Street
Wanniassa ACT 2903

PO Box 423
Erindale Centre ACT 2903 

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About Our Church

Our faith community began in 1975 as a small ecumenical gathering of people who settled in the new Canberra township of Tuggeranong. We have grown with the Tuggeranong Community, and our parish centre is the hub for our work, as a place of worship, of gathering, fellowship and ministry.

We come together for authentic and Christ-centred worship. While we worship in a variety of styles, we share a common focus on faithfully listening for God’s Word and sharing His kindness and compassion with others. We express our love for God and others through a range of ministries, and connections with our community.

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