This Sunday we will be baptizing one of our young people into the church and, like so many churches do at a baptism, we will present her with a Bible. However, a Bible is a big scary object, full of millions of words and some very alarming stories. How, then, shall we encourage our newly baptized member to keep opening it up? How shall we encourage her to keep bringing her questions, fears and dreamings to this book? How shall we point to the Word of Life we have found in its pages, when there are so many words and so many pages to navigate?
I’m on leave this week, so here’s a piece from the archives on the place of women in resurrection life. The reflection was first given to Sanctuary in November 2019, but I believe it speaks strongly to the current cultural moment.
Every now and then, I get a letter addressed to Mrs Paul Holdway; and I reel. Once I’ve stopped reeling, I wonder who on earth this woman is. She sounds like a shadow, a cipher. She’s probably maternal, almost certainly matronly. I’m sure she’s a great supporter of her husband and good at housework. She probably darns other people’s socks, and I’m sure she makes things for cake stalls and fetes. I have no idea what she herself is like, or what she herself is really interested in, but I do know this: There’s something extraordinarily silencing about having my name obliterated in a letter which is ostensibly addressed to me.
Mark’s account of the resurrection is very odd, ending in silence, fear and a great big question mark: for the last word of the gospel account is ‘because …’ Most English translations are so uncomfortable with this ending that they drag the ‘because’ backwards, using it to explain the women’s behaviour. Thus we often read, ‘They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’ This is not Mark’s wording. A more accurate translation ends with ‘They said nothing to anyone. They were afraid, because …’ – inviting you, the reader, to enter into the story, and wrestle with the question and the sense of unknowing. With current events in mind, I invite you to dwell on the story, the women, the fear, and the dangling question, as you slowly and prayerfully read and wonder how it continues to speak into our world today. Continue reading “Slow reading: The witness of women”
Jesus said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ (John 21:17; Simon is also known as Peter (‘Rock’))
I once was in desperate need of making a decision and, almost without control, found myself marching to a small chapel. Inside, possessed with an agency I still marvel at, I asked myself what story of the Gospels most sounded like what I needed to hear. It was a question of pure intuition. One the whim of some kind of autopilot, I turned to the last chapter in John, the chapter where Peter has decided that he is returning to fishing and he goes, together with six others who follow him even if he may have wished they weren’t.
My God! My God, why have you left me all alone? Why are you so far from saving me – so far from my anguished groans? …. I’m just a worm, less than human … I’m poured out like water. All my bones have fallen apart. My heart is like wax; it melts inside me. My strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you’ve set me down in the dirt of death. (Psalm 22:1-15, excerpts) + Let my whole being bless the Lord! Let everything inside me bless his holy name! Let my whole being bless the Lord and never forget all his good deeds: how God forgives all your sins, heals all your sickness, saves your life from the pit, crowns you with faithful love and compassion, and satisfies you with plenty of good things so that your youth is made fresh like an eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
When Anne told Marilla she was in the ‘depths of despair’, Marilla expressed disapproval, declaring that to be in such a state was to ‘turn your back on God’. Continue reading “40: Depths and heights #Lent2021”
Jesus was crucified outside the city gates… So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This ‘insider world’ is not our home… Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name. (Hebrews 13:12-14, MSG)
Some of my earliest memories are of family and church. As a pastor’s kid, they have always been entwined. I have fond memories of running down aisles, riding a pony as Mary in the nativity play, making clay Bible characters and of trying to sneak an extra cookie at morning tea after the service. Church often felt like a second home. I knew all the hiding spots and I loved all the people. I used to live a block from my church growing up. My brothers and I would often duck past on the way home from school. I distinctly remember running into the church building after school one time when my brother and I were running from kids who wanted to bash us. It was a place of refuge and an enjoyable place for me…
Friends love through thick and thin, and kinfolk are born to share in hard times. (Proverbs 17:17)
The last couple of months have been a flurry of unknown, disagreement and trying to hope for the best. Those months felt sad and lonely though we all tried to make the best of it. I felt as if we’d been deserted, nothing left but each other and hope. One of the hardest things was being a big sister. It’s hard to comfort someone while you’re upset.
A quiet bend in the river has been chosen, complete with resident platypus, a Bible has been ordered, a wetsuit has been arranged: all because a young person in our midst has responded to God’s call on her life and is ready to be baptised. And so, in a few weeks, we will do one of the most exciting things a church can do: hear her vows, and baptise her into the body of Christ.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; justice and peace will kiss. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and justice will look down from the sky. God will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Justice will go before him, and make a path for his steps. (Psalm 85:10-13)
Like most Aboriginal people, I find myself in between two worlds. Belonging to the world’s oldest living culture, and a western culture termed “Australian” … The two worlds can make you sick, but most often it makes you tired.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will rise up among the nations, I will rise up from the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
The thing that I have been learning this year is to ‘Be still and know that I am God’. It has been a year of learning to slow down, listen, muse and write. For example, I got thinking about the story of the healing of the demon possessed man in Mark 5, and wondered if it could say anything to us today. So I reset the story in our culture and our time to see how it looked. Here it is: