People of All Ages Doing Faith Together

I visited our sister church, South Yarra Community Baptist, on Sunday, and told them all about us. If you’re curious, this is what I said:

To paraphrase the great missionary, the Apostle Paul, “I greet you as God’s own children, and wish you all the best.” When I moved to Warrnambool last year, a good friend of mine described it as my own great missionary journey. So tonight I will channel the energies of the missionaries who spoke at churches in my childhood, and bring stories of more of God’s children, and a slideshow. My name is Alison, I’m your church-planting pastor, and I am very grateful for the administrative, liturgical, prayerful, and other support that South Yarra provides. I’m here in Melbourne this week because I’m doing an intensive on the spiritual life of children. Basically, I’m checking if I’m doing things right, because the congregation I now serve is two-thirds kids. As you can imagine, the service—and my work—have a very different energy to South Yarra. And yet, if you were to visit, things would probably feel strangely familiar.  Continue reading “People of All Ages Doing Faith Together”

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Beyond Welfare

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This is the week when I am supposed to preach a hard-hitting sermon, telling you to get off your butts and roll up your sleeves. Start a soup kitchen! House the homeless! Run a drop-in centre! Start a free medical clinic! And if you don’t … judgement awaits. But I won’t go there. Because many of you have been down that road, and you have burned out. It’s not that those things aren’t important—they are!—but that I don’t think that this work is the point of tonight’s passage. For welfare and overseas development agencies can only do so much. They can fill a stomach, or tackle addiction, or provide accommodation; but if we truly want to see people made whole, then we need something more.  Continue reading “Beyond Welfare”

The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller

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Parables are like puzzle boxes. There are no easy answers, no straight readings. You can take a parable in several directions: how you interpret it depends on your faith community, your social location, your Biblical knowledge, your image of God, a good dose of the Holy Spirit, and—let’s be honest!—your mood. Now, most people have heard spiritual interpretations of the parable of the talents. In such a reading, those Christians who don’t use their money, time, gifts, and abilities to advance the kingdom of heaven will face God’s anger and judgement. But it’s interesting that nothing in the story says that the angry boss is God. So let’s swap the lens from spiritual to economic, and assume that Jesus meant the talents literally. A talent was a colossal unit of money, over a million dollars today: how might knowing this affect the reading? Listen as I riff on the story, and re-tell it in a modern context. Perhaps it will lead to a different place. And if it does, then, like all good parables, where you go from that place is up to you. So make yourself comfortable: it’s time for a story.  Continue reading “The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller”

It’s You!

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A person knocks on a door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s your servant.” The voice says, “There’s no one here.”

The person goes away, wandering and wondering, working and thinking and talking and praying and sleeping and playing and dreaming, as you do. A year goes by, and they return. They knock at the door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s your sibling.” The voice says, “There’s no one here.”

The person goes away, wandering and wondering, working and thinking and talking and praying and sleeping and playing and dreaming, as you do. A year goes by, and they return. They knock at the door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s You.” The door swings open.

What if we have already been given every spiritual resource we need? What if we can be so transformed by Christ that, when he looks into our eyes, he sees himself? What if it is up to each of us to open the door?  Continue reading “It’s You!”

The Liturgy and the People of God

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Several months ago, we heard the story of two disciples walking away from Jerusalem. Jesus had been killed, and they were fleeing the city, full of doubt and fear. There on the road to Emmaus they met a stranger. They told him everything that had happened, and he explained the Scriptures to them. Then, as they ate together, they recognised the Risen Christ. I remind you of this because, early last year, when I was visiting and observing you all, what I saw were a lot of tired, doubting adults walking away from church.  Continue reading “The Liturgy and the People of God”

The Great Leader and the Gravedigger

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Here we are, at the end of Moses’ epic journey. He has led the people out of Egypt, through the desert, across the Red Sea; he has brought them out of slavery, and turned them away from idol worship and towards God; no one has ever shown such mighty power or performed such awesome deeds; he is the greatest prophet the world has ever known; and the promised land is in sight. If this were an ordinary story, we all know what would happen next: a red carpet unfurling, trumpets ringing out, and Moses riding a white stallion as he leads the people in triumph into the land. Except, this is no ordinary story.  Instead, Moses encounters a gravedigger.  Continue reading “The Great Leader and the Gravedigger”

The Beautiful Backside of God

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Yet again, our government has shown itself to be anti-Biblical: for mooning has been made explicitly illegal in the State of Victoria. From the first of July, anyone who pulls down their dacks and bares their bum in public risks two months in jail; if they do it again, they risk six months. And so a great Judaeo-Christian tradition has been outlawed. For, as we just heard, when Moses begs to see God’s face, God refuses. Instead, God announces that God will tuck Moses into a gap in the rock and cover him while God’s glory passes by. Then, when it is safe, God will remove the holy hand and Moses will see the marvellous moon, the beautiful backside of God. Most translations gloss over this glorious glimpse: but mooning is precisely what God does. And yet it has now been made illegal. So much for freedom of religious expression. Continue reading “The Beautiful Backside of God”

Dry Paths through Seas of Chaos

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Last week, we named a few of issues facing our society: Catastrophic climate change. Corporate and political corruption. Imminent federal funding of the Adani coal mine. Macho posturing between the United States and North Korea. The plebiscite, and the vile rhetoric being unleashed against LGBTQI people. Australia’s abuse of people seeking asylum, and the suffering of the men trapped on Manus Island. Our nation’s history of genocide, and continuing discrimination against First Peoples. The exploitation of those who make many of our consumer goods. As the list grew, it became overwhelmingly obvious that only a fool would claim that life is good. These are desperate times in which violence is a deep, ever-present, and continuing reality, which affects every person, and all life, on earth. Continue reading “Dry Paths through Seas of Chaos”

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