Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

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Once upon a time, my fiancé and I were living in North Fitzroy; and we were married by Paul Turton at the North Carlton Baptist Church. We stood before the congregation, and made our promises, and were declared a wedded couple. Straightaway, I met a surprising number of interesting, intelligent, and attractive men. I began wondering if my own interesting, intelligent, and attractive man was really the best option, or whether I had made a colossal mistake; and I found myself wrestling with demons of pride, and doubt, and desire.  Continue reading “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!”

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The Testimony of Touch

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Who among you feels unclean? Perhaps you have a mental illness, and have learned to hide it. Perhaps you have thoughts or feelings which make you ashamed. Perhaps you have been touched in ways for which you blame yourself. Perhaps your identity is condemned by politicians, or the religious, or the mass media. Perhaps you are indigenous, raised to pass for white. Perhaps you are HIV-positive, and terrified of infecting others. Perhaps, like me, your hands erupt in eczema, and you often need to hide them. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.  Continue reading “The Testimony of Touch”

Women’s Work: Ministry or Service?

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I wonder what Simon’s mother-in-law prepared for Jesus and his disciples. Pita bread and hommous? Rice wrapped in vine leaves? Dried figs, almonds, and a soft mound of goats’ cheese? When Jesus visits Simon’s house, Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed. But although it’s the Sabbath, and although she’s a woman, and although she’s sick, Jesus touches her. She is healed; she gets out of bed; and she begins to serve them: and in the Middle East, that always means food.  Continue reading “Women’s Work: Ministry or Service?”

Good Sandwich, Great Teaching

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How weird is this: Jesus goes to a religious centre, encounters a man with an unclean spirit, and exorcises him. And all the people say, “Wow! What a teacher!” Throughout the Gospel of Mark, as Jesus sends away many unclean and demonic spirits, the people keep calling him ‘Teacher’. And his tour culminates in the cleansing of the temple: and “the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching!”—except, of course, those who sought to kill him. I’m guessing by now the teachers here are mentally raising their eyebrows. Perform an exorcism at Warrnambool College, and you’ll have all the people running away screaming; they won’t be praising the teacher. So what’s going on here? Continue reading “Good Sandwich, Great Teaching”

Jonah: Ministry without reservation

The book of Jonah is a powerful, difficult, and demanding book, more relevant than ever: for it shows a man walking into the epicentre of globalisation and military violence, unarmed, to preach the end of the age. Christians often think they should feel warm, fuzzy, loving thoughts towards the other; but, like Jesus, Jonah shows us that love means placing our very bodies among those we fear, hate, or simply don’t understand. Whether this means the extreme of walking into Mosul, the modern-day Ninevah, and preaching God’s word; or whether it means crossing the barriers of religion, age, class, or cultural, gender, or sexual identity in relationship, this radical enemy-love lies at the heart of the gospel – and it is terrifying.  Continue reading “Jonah: Ministry without reservation”

Prepare the Way: But How?

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Once upon a time, long, long ago, I lived in Washington, DC. We went to a church which was once Harry Truman’s, then Jimmy Carter’s; and the Clintons came a couple times. Its members included diplomats, military men, and CIA staff; investors, bankers, and millionaires; presidential advisors, scientists, and journalists; and a governor of the Federal Reserve. So one of the hardest things about moving to Warrnambool is the teeny-tiny feeling that I have dropped off the face of the earth. It’s not a hamlet; but compared to living in our capital city, let alone the city I once lived in, Warrnambool feels remote indeed. It’s not that the powerful had any time for me; it’s just that I’m used to thinking that power is all around me. And at some deep level, I assume—wrongly—that big and powerful human places is where the real stuff happens: the God-stuff.  Continue reading “Prepare the Way: But How?”

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”

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”

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