Archive for January, 2011

Communion (2)

January 31st, 2011
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Scripture of the Day: John 13:12-17

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.(NIV)

From an interview for Radio Encounter

Jean Vanier: It’s a long story, and the story begins when I joined the Royal Naval College in England in 1942 during the war. And then I left the Navy to follow Jesus, but not quite knowing where and how and on that journey I met a priest who was a holy man and also a good theologian, and it was actually because of this priest that I began L’Arche, because he was named as the Chaplain of a small institution for people with disabilities. This was in 1963. So I discovered a world that I didn’t know anything about. I began looking into the question; I visited psychiatric hospitals, I visited other institutions, and then I discovered that people with disabilities were amongst the people who are the most oppressed in our world. Actually the story, or the history, of people with disabilities is a horrible story of rejection, of being seen as of no value. Even the names they were given, ‘imbeciles’ and people treated them as mad and so on. They’ve been in so many ways seen as the lepers of humanity. And I discovered this whole world, and yet I discovered also that they were beautiful people, that they were people, and they were important, and that each person has a value, and each one has a gift.

So all I did was I discovered in a rather terrible institution, a few people really locked up and in a bad way, so in a way it was very simple. I got a house and I took two people from this institution and we just started living together. Of course there were all the, what I’d call the legal things that I had to go through, and create an association and so on. But it just began because I just felt that people with disabilities were being cruelly treated and not listened to, not seen as having a gift to give to society, and the weak were just being crushed.

Carmel Howard: L’Arche founder, Jean Vanier.

In Australia, there are L’Arche communities established in Canberra, Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne and Brisbane, with emerging communities in Perth and Newcastle.

L’Arche communities typically consist of a number of households in a neighbourhood, and in each L’Arche home, those with intellectual disabilities are referred to as the ‘core members’ of the community.

I met up with some of the L’Arche Brisbane community at one of their recent ‘Potluck Dinners’, where core members and their assistants, and family and friends from the wider community, gather monthly for a Sunday night dinner.

Sister Kathy Bourke is House Co-ordinator for L’Arche Brisbane’s Morningside household, and she told me a little about each of the core members.

Kathy Bourke: So we have Anthony, who was the first person here at Morningside. Anthony’s a delightful man, full of life and energy and very connected to people as well. Jenny, one of those wisdom people, a person who recalls people to home and stays at home, always there, ready to chat; a very strong woman. Sheena’s another young woman who’s full of energy, and enjoys herself. And the moment she wakes up, she just bubbles with the joy of living and breathing life. And Danny came later. Danny’s a man who’s very connected to his faith. And he lived with his mum, and that connection continues now. The gentleness of the way they lived life together he has brought into our home. And Jason. Jason also is a young man full of lots of energy and life. And Jason hasn’t speech as we know it. He has plenty of communication but no speech. So it’s another way to be together and really understand. But when you’re with Jason you really feel that he has a direct connection to the heart, and he kind of knows, and you can sense in his eyes that when you’re not really on top or well, or just having a down day, he’s there with you, that compassion is there. He lives an extraordinary life. And then there’s Peter. Pete’s a really welcoming person. There’s always room for another dozen to come inside here, so he teaches us that we can always open our doors and find more seats, yes.

Vanier saw that those with an intellectual disability were seen as not having real value – as having nothing to contribute. When he chose to live with two men they were building a community –they were entering in to a relationship that could be described as communion. The two men were important and had gifts for this communion.

For the full program and interviews click here Jean Vanier’s Ark from Radio Encounter

Did you notice how Sister Cathy Burke spoke about the people she lived with. She described their gifts, their contributions to herself and all those in the community. They were not dependents receiving from the powerful carer. There was a mutual giving and receiving. She actually knew them and knew what she was receiving from them.

Message for the Day

Communion (1)

January 30th, 2011
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Scripture of the Day: 1John 4:8

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (NIV)

Communion” is part of the new name of our church denominationally. It is quite an abstract word which can appear to be quite fuzzy. We hear descriptions like:

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one Being in perfect communion, and Jesus prayed that his disciples would share in that relationship and reflect it to the world (John 14:20; 17:23).

That seems a tall order considering our own failures in personal relationships..


The underlying theme of the workshops and plenary sessions of the conference was the importance of congregations and individuals building genuine community in Christ in the bond of the Holy Spirit—true fellowship rooted in the love by which 1 John 4:8 defines the eternal communion of the Father, Son and Spirit.

Sounds good. But what does it mean in real life where the rubber meets the road?

I want to share what I have personally found as a profound insight from the practical reality of the L’Arche communities.

I have read and been acquainted with the work of L’Arche for about 13 years. As you will read in the excerpts from an ABC program on L’Arche, they focus on people with an intellectual disability. The same people that Special Olympics caters for.

When I was listening to part of this program as I drove one early Sunday morning a challenging concept jumped out at me. It became very clear when I heard the Sister describing each member of the core group in Brisbane. Tomorrow see if you can discern something important in what is happening.

Message for the Day

Incarnation and Atonement (15)

January 29th, 2011
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Scripture of the Day: 2Corinthians 4:4-6

4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”]made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.(NIV)

This remarkable statement of Paul is so encouraging to all of us. We are all meant to be theologians in the sense we have a growing personal knowledge of God. A lot of what is called theology can leave us dry –almost sucking the life out of us. Have you ever noticed how some theological books are so dense that within a short time they exhaust you. One cannot but feel sympathetic to the observation in Ecclesiastes 12:12 “ Of making of books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”

And yet when we read and reflect on the gospels and see the beautiful life of Jesus amongst us in his humanity,  we are filled with life and joy. We see a true knowledge of God in the face of Christ. And it is in the ordinary daily sacrifice for others that this life shines so clearly in a world ruled by self-centredness most of the time.

I would like to finish with a song entitled the Gentle Healer. It illustrates how we walk in Jesus’ footsteps in this world by service to others. Click here to watch.

Message for the Day ,