A Place at the Table

Those of us at church on Sunday had a rollicking time. Along with the usual suspects, other friends and associates dropped by to celebrate my ordination, including some card-carrying atheists, a BATS* pagan, a BUV representative, and a dog. Several people wore rainbow flags, and a young transgender person sent their apologies; as they told me later, their butt hurt so badly from a recent hormone injection that they had to stay home. Fair enough! Continue reading “A Place at the Table”

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Visions of an Angry Prophet

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I recently came across the idea of a life verse: that is, the idea that there is a Bible verse for each of us which encapsulates who we are, and guides our journey of faith. I rolled my eyes. Straightaway, two verses hit me. From Jonah: “It is indeed right for me to be angry, even unto death.” And from Psalm 139: “You knit me in my mother’s womb; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We like our pastors to be nice — but I can’t promise you that. For I have been fearfully and wonderfully made: as an angry prophet. And like Bartimaeus, my faith has opened my eyes; and as I look around, I see too many practices in our churches which deny too many people their full and God-given humanity. Continue reading “Visions of an Angry Prophet”

Promises, promises

On Saturday I was ordained by the Baptist Union of Victoria. This picture shows the three amigos, aka Katrina Lambert (Albert Park Baptist), me, and Marcus Curnow (Newmarket Baptist). They say it takes a village to raise a child; I reckon it took a city or two to raise this pastor. Thanks to everyone who helped get me there; to everyone who showed up, including a solid 30 from the great South West region of Victoria; and to everyone who took part in the flash choir during the service – it sounded awesome! Continue reading “Promises, promises”

The Ring Theory of Kvetching

My mother was a pastoral caregiver: the person everyone approached to talk, weep and rage through life’s crises. When she became sick, a problem emerged. People would come and pour out their strong feelings about her illness (not theirs); and she, in pain and exhausted, would quell her own feelings and comfort them as best as she was able – even as she desperately needed comforting herself. Continue reading “The Ring Theory of Kvetching”

Suffering: Who’s to blame?

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There is a story in the gospel according to John which begins like this: Jesus was walking along when he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” These days, we’re not quite so quick to blame people for being differently abled or ill. And yet when my mother, Ruth, had multiple sclerosis, I lost count of the number of people who became frustrated, even angry, with her. “But she’s such a good person!” they said, “How can she be so sick?” “But we’re praying!” they said, “Why isn’t she getting better? Is she praying, too?” Continue reading “Suffering: Who’s to blame?”

Esther

Esther is often portrayed as a love story. So let’s begin by making some observations. King Xerxes eliminated Queen Vashti when she refused to parade herself in front of an extended men-only drinking bout. Having got rid of her, Xerxes needed a new queen. His advisors suggested he seize all the beautiful young virgins, give each one a night to prove herself, and choose from among them. So Esther did not line up at the palace flapping an application form for a beauty pageant; nor did the king pick her for her personality. Instead, she was a vulnerable young woman who was noticed for her beauty and abducted by the king’s brute squad, and whose only hope for survival lay in pleasing the king’s eunuch – for then he “provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food (2:9). A year of beauty treatment and education prepared her for the next step in her survival: sexually captivating the king. In other words, Esther has less agency than a bunny in the Playboy Mansion and yet, even in such terrifying, humiliating and unpromising circumstances, her courage, obedience and wisdom saves the Jewish people from annihilation. Continue reading “Esther”

Further Thoughts on Gossip

How fitting to have a youth group bonfire the night before we heard that “the tongue is a fire … itself set on fire by hell!” (James 3). And in the weird and wonderful way that the lectionary throws up readings, this text came up not only the day after the bonfire (which was awesome, thanks for asking, not least thanks to the prayer shield which gave us a dry 90 minutes for the precise window of time we were scheduled to stand in a field watching things burn; I’m not sure what I think about that; so let’s just pray much harder for the rain to head north), but two weeks after someone asked me what I thought about gossip.  Continue reading “Further Thoughts on Gossip”

Holy Gossip

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Tonight’s passage from the Epistle of James scares the living daylights out of me. Apparently, my tongue is a deadly fire. It stains the whole body. It is a restless evil, full of poison. And as one who speaks to the gathered community, I will be judged with greater strictness for my speech. Even worse, this passage is often used to preach against gossip: that form of talking about people which is so often done by women. I should be quaking in my boots — and believe me, I am! For I am a woman who regularly chats with people about people. And yet, while there is no doubt in my mind that careless and malicious words can be incredibly destructive, I’d like to step back, and take a good look at gossip. Continue reading “Holy Gossip”

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