Blessed is the No-Good Trickster

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Once upon a time, there was a family: and this is a story from its beginnings, what we call its genesis. You’ve heard of Father Abraham and Mother Sarah, yes? And how they had a son named Isaac? Well, this is a story about Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and their double trouble. Isaac loved Rebekah dearly, but she couldn’t have children. For twenty years, 240 months, there was nix, nada, nothing! No baby! Finally, Isaac prayed to his father’s God, the God of life: and God heard his prayer. Rebekah conceived—but oh! it was twins! and oh! it was difficult. Her belly, it swelled and swelled, and the babies inside, they fought and fought, and she felt like she was being torn apart. So she went and asked the God of life about it. Continue reading “Blessed is the No-Good Trickster”

Alt*red State: A text of terror brings good news

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All around the world today, people will be listening to the story of Abraham and Isaac. And the preachers will preach and the teachers will teach that Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son is a model of faith; and so we, too, are called to sacrifice everything for Jesus’ sake—even, if necessary, our own children. And some adults will nod wisely, thrilled by such demands; others will feel sick, and maybe leave the faith; and any children who are paying attention will be horrified. They will wonder why anyone would want to worship a god who might ask their parents to hurt them—and that is an excellent question.
Continue reading “Alt*red State: A text of terror brings good news”

Ishmael, Isaac, and the Shared Inheritance

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If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘Biblical family values’ and thought this means one mum, one dad, a couple of kids, and everybody being nice to each other, then the story we just heard should rock you to the core. For here we have the father of our faith, Abraham, being bossed around by his feisty wife Sarah. She is insisting that he send his beloved older son into the wilderness. Years ago, she had arranged for Abraham to sleep with her personal slave, Hagar, and conceive this boy. Now, however, she has her own son, and so the other boy has become a threat. For God had promised Abraham a blessing: land, wealth, and descendants. From him would come a great nation—and Sarah didn’t want to share. Continue reading “Ishmael, Isaac, and the Shared Inheritance”

Hope, Love, and Laughter: The gifts that strangers bring

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Why do we listen to stories of old? Not just the Jesus stories, but the stories before his time. What do we do with them? Well, Jesus didn’t come out of nowhere. The older stories lie behind the Jesus stories; and they greatly enrich our understanding of his life and ministry. And so when we hear these older stories, we do well to use our imaginations: to listen to the story, yes, but also to wonder how it relates to or echoes or emphasises or reinterprets other stories that we know. And because we are Christians gathered as a worshipping community, our lens will always be Christ: we will always be seeking pointers to Christ, with whom and in whom we are gathered. With this in mind, let’s turn to tonight’s story. Continue reading “Hope, Love, and Laughter: The gifts that strangers bring”

And They Doubted…

They doubted.

Three days after Jesus was executed and put in the ground, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary met the living risen Christ, and brought the Word to all the followers of Jesus: he will meet you in Galilee. So they went to Galilee. And there they saw Jesus! He came to them, and spoke with them, and they worshipped him.

And they doubted. Continue reading “And They Doubted…”

Wounded and Scarred – and Here!

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Some of you might remember a television program called ‘Yes, Minister!’, which took a satirical look at how government really worked. In one episode, a new hospital was awarded an efficiency prize. It was later discovered to have 500 administrators—and no patients! I was thinking about churches and Christian communities when I remembered this episode, for it is impossible to be seriously involved in a church or Christian community without coming up against the hassle of sick and wounded people. Continue reading “Wounded and Scarred – and Here!”

Christ is Risen! But where is he now?

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Way back in January, we heard stories about Jesus meeting his first disciples. In one account, Jesus was out walking, and as he passed John the Baptiser, John pointed to Jesus, and called him the Lamb of God. Jesus stopped, and he asked John’s disciples, “What are you looking for?” And they replied “Teacher, where are you abiding?” “Where are you staying? Where are you making your home?” His answer was: “Come and see!” And so they left John and they followed Jesus through the days and weeks and months described in the Gospel. They ate and drank, together and with others. They went to houses and tombs and weddings and wells. They sailed back and forth across the Sea of Galilee, moving between Jewish and Gentile territories, all under the power of Rome. And as they lived and journeyed together, the disciples watched Jesus healing and teaching and loving and forgiving and breaking bread with people. Finally, he was killed, and the question they began with still hung in the air: Teacher, where are you abiding? Continue reading “Christ is Risen! But where is he now?”

Our Fundamental Task: Forgiveness

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Last week, we heard about two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and how they encountered Christ. Through gathering, confession, Word, and Table, they came to recognise the Risen Lord in a stranger; and when this happened, they were so excited that they rushed off to tell everyone about it. This story is so foundational to our faith that, for over two thousand years, Jesus’ disciples have largely followed the pattern of gathering, confession, Word, and Table whenever they meet: and it is this pattern that we follow in our own worship service. We do this because we trust that when we engage in these practices, somehow, somewhere, we will catch a glimpse of Christ and be oriented back to God, an orientation we are to carry into the rest of the week. So that’s why we meet the way we do. But what of the rest of the week? What are we to do then? Continue reading “Our Fundamental Task: Forgiveness”

Life on the Road

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The disciples are despairing. They are scattered and confused. For they have witnessed the death of their great hope, their teacher, their friend. And in tonight’s story, we hear that two have decided to walk away from the scene of violence, away from Jerusalem, away from the body of Jesus. As they walk, they talk. Jesus comes alongside them. They don’t recognise him. But something in the man leads them to tell him about their discouragement, and the dashing of their hopes. They had been following a man they thought would overthrow the oppressors and restore Israel. Instead, he was crucified, and Israel remains under Roman control. Continue reading “Life on the Road”

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