Let’s Make a Splash!

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Baptism. It’s something John offered, and something Jesus underwent, and something his disciples are told to do. It’s got something to do with water and washing and sin: but what is it, actually? What are we doing, what are we declaring, who are we becoming when we are baptised? What does it all mean? Tonight’s story offers a few clues, but to explore the depths, we’ll first need to zoom out a little. Continue reading “Let’s Make a Splash!”

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Nothing like a good yarn

Dear friend,

On Saturday 19 January at 7pm, we will hold our first yarn: an evening for people to gather and tell stories. The theme is epiphany: a moment when you realised something deep and true about yourself or the world. More about the event is here; guidelines for storytellers are here. But what’s the big idea behind it? Well, we are story people. The stories we tell and the stories we inhabit create deep patterns in our minds, shaping how we see the world, each other and ourselves. Yet we are surrounded by untrue stories: the story that there is never enough to go round (dismantled here); the story that suffering is a cosmic or divine punishment (dismissed here); the story that some groups of people threaten the smooth workings of our society (deconstructed here); the story that wealth is a sign of God’s favour (demolished here); and many others. Continue reading “Nothing like a good yarn”

Winnowing out only violence, or the move from John to Jesus

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Some years back, I saw a woman in a carpark smacking her child. And as she smacked, she yelled, “WE DO NOT HIT IN THIS FAMILY! WE LOVE!” It reminded me of those ostensibly Biblical parenting models, in which cool and collected parents maintain discipline by spanking their naughty children—and then lovingly use the moment as a teaching opportunity. Because the people being hit are children, and because our society doesn’t rate children’s experiences very highly, we adults can miss the contradiction here. Yet if we substitute ‘women’ for ‘children’, perhaps things become clearer: even if it’s ‘just a smack’, there is a mixed message going on, to say the least. Continue reading “Winnowing out only violence, or the move from John to Jesus”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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