Rethinking Forgiveness

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A year or two ago, someone outside the church contacted me. They had come across one of my sermons, and they wanted to talk. We met, and I asked what was bothering them. “We-ell,” they said, “It’s as if you’re saying that God loves us even before we have repented.” “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” I said. “I can’t accept that,” they replied, “That’s definitely not right.” Continue reading “Rethinking Forgiveness”

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Shedding cumber, making room

During Advent, we are encouraged to make room for the coming of Christ. “But how?” someone asked me. Like most of us, they are juggling responsibilities, roles and expectations which all come to a head in December. As another person commented, what with all the end-of-year activities, “I barely have time to breathe, let alone reflect, during this time.” Continue reading “Shedding cumber, making room”

Terrified by global warming? Follow the children

This week, thousands of children around Australia participated in the School Strike 4 Climate Action, and it was magnificent! Like too many adults, whenever I think about climate change, I feel overwhelmed. We are facing the catastrophic collapse of vast ecosystems on which our lives depend; countless other species are hurtling towards extinction. Out-of-control wildfires dot the globe; terrifying hurricanes and storm surges wreak havoc; formerly arable land has been turned into desert. All around us, governments and disaster capitalists and environmental hoodlums keep chopping down trees and mining the land and opting for coal and pumping carbon into the atmosphere. They will not change, and there seems to be nothing I can do. Continue reading “Terrified by global warming? Follow the children”

Overweight, overwrought, and overwhelmed by stuff.

Last year, I wrote about bi-cultural Christmas: that idea that there are two Christmas cultures. The first, seen all around us already, is a cultural event; the second is Christian, and happens only after the waiting time of Advent. Many Christian commentators suggest that, if we are not to be joyless Scrooges, we need to find ways to participate in both. But I struggle with this. Continue reading “Overweight, overwrought, and overwhelmed by stuff.”

Revelation at Armageddon

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To get to Armageddon, known in Hebrew as ‘Megiddo’, we drive past an airfield. Our Israeli guide tells us about the Syrian pilot who defected there in 1989. He was flying a Soviet-made MIG-23 fighter jet, which provided Israel with valuable military intelligence—and it feels like nothing ever changes. For in the Hebrew Bible, Megiddo is the site of many clashes where victory is attributed to God; in the book of Revelation, it’s the site where the kings of the world are assembled for a final battle. And so for many people Megiddo, or Armageddon, has long been associated with the destructive violence we expect from kings, whether human or divine: and thousands of years after these stories were first told, the military continues to be active here. Continue reading “Revelation at Armageddon”

Warm boulders and other blessings

So I’m back! I’ve spent the last two weeks travelling in Jordan, Israel and Palestine, and I’m full to brimming with the sights, sounds, scents, conversations and reflections I absorbed there. It was a wonderful experience, which I suspect will thrum behind much that I say and do over the next few years. There were many moving moments: sailing on a wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee; seeing the hideous wall blockading Bethlehem; being shown through the Holocaust Museum by a man whose entire extended family was murdered by the Nazis; thinking about the meaning of peace for Israel and Palestine; and singing with friends in a stone tomb in Petra. I fell in love with Jerusalem, that lively, colourful, historic, contested and conflicted city; and again and again Psalm 122 came to mind; although as for how Jerusalem will find peace, like so many others I do not know. Continue reading “Warm boulders and other blessings”

Many doubts and scattered stones

Sitting in the dirty police cell we discussed what we would say. “Don’t admit anything,” the team leader said. “They can’t prove anything.” Three of us had been making our way north from Guangzhou to Xi’an distributing bible tracts that connected readers with the underground church. We would go out at night dressed in dark clothes and leave them all around rural villages and towns before moving on the next day. If travelling by bus, we would also drop the occasional tract out of the rear window since many people travelled on foot along the roads. This was how we were caught. Continue reading “Many doubts and scattered stones”

Forging discomfort into community

This week at Sanctuary we heard the story of the Widow’s Mite: Jesus is at the Temple and observes rich people dropping large sums in the offering box, and a poor widow who puts in the two smallest coins going at the time. Jesus tells His disciples that the Widow has given the most – everything she has – while the Rich have given only a small amount of their surplus. Giving out of your surplus always grabs me with this story. The notion that giving and remaining comfortable isn’t much to write home about – the real magic comes by giving even when it causes discomfort. Continue reading “Forging discomfort into community”

A Revolutionary Abolitionist and our Cloud of Witnesses

Last Thursday, we gathered for All Saints’ Day. We ate, sang and spoke of people in our ‘Cloud of Witnesses’ – those who have passed on and who have inspired us and our faith. Their names were added to the blackboard that stands over us year round, and those of us who wished to told a story about the soul whose name they had added. I had not attended this service before, and had not really understood what Alison had meant when she said it was a way for us to be reminded of and acquainted with death, and brought in community with our cloud of witnesses (that’s how I remember her explaining it anyway).  I had thought that meant it was a kind of memorial, anniversary-like, and was okay with that. But sitting there, saying the prayers, singing the names, reading the people on the board and hearing the stories about them – it created an awareness for me that those who have died and we who are living are not ‘us’ and ‘them’: we are collectively the Body of Christ, and His Spirit is with us. Continue reading “A Revolutionary Abolitionist and our Cloud of Witnesses”

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