Anatomy of a Murder

Whodunnit? It’s the question asked of every murder mystery. Perhaps it’s Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the lead piping; or maybe it’s Miss Scarlet in the dining room with the candlestick. But “whodunnit?” is not a question that is asked very often about the death of Jesus: either we don’t think about it, or we assume that we know. But if we take a closer look, we might find that the answer to “whodunnit?”, that is, who demanded Jesus’ death, is not exactly what we assume; yet whodunnit has enormous implications for our faith. Continue reading “Anatomy of a Murder”

Love, joy and conflict at Christmas

St Andrew’s Fairfield had a donkey at its service last Sunday; Hillsong will have camels. The Christmas story is certainly very picturesque: animals, angels, shepherds, wise men, and, in the middle of the crowd, a baby. It’s easy to forget that this baby’s mother was a young girl, whose response to pregnancy out of wedlock was to praise the God who overthrows the powerful and sends the rich away empty. It’s easy to forget that the first people to worship at his cradle were shepherds: impoverished social outcasts and not the right sort of people at all; and the second lot were religious outsiders, foreigners who practiced the abominations of numerology and reading the stars. It’s easy to forget that the baby grew up in occupied territories, sought asylum in Egypt, and returned to a new town after being warned not to go home. It’s easy to forget that the prophecies surrounding his birth triggered the slaughter of many other young boys; and that his preaching and ministry were violently opposed right up until the cross. Continue reading “Love, joy and conflict at Christmas”

Sometimes even prophets struggle to understand

Who likes to play cops and robbers? Who likes to watch movies where the good guys win, and the baddies are made to look ridiculous, or are thrown into jail, or are blown into smithereens? Most of us love the idea that bad people are punished, and good people win. Even the prophet John liked the idea. As we just heard, he preached that someone was coming—Jesus—who would gather all the good people together, and would burn the rubbish with unquenchable fire. John’s preaching was so alarming that people came from all over the countryside to be baptised and to confess their sins. Yet John roared at some of them. He called them names—“You brood of vipers!”—and said that everyone who did not bear fruit, that is, everyone who did not live well according to God, would be chopped down with an axe and thrown into the fire. And the implication is that the axe, and the fire, are God’s punishment. Continue reading “Sometimes even prophets struggle to understand”

Keep calm and carry on

Is it the end of the world? A violent misogynist and serial liar, who shows naked contempt for women, people of colour, the democratic process, the office of the President, and the law; a man who deliberately muddies truth and fiction; a man who threatens to exclude 1.6 billion children of Abraham from his country simply because of their faith; a man who claims to represent the working class, yet flies in a gold-plated jet and pays no income tax himself; a man who feeds on and fuels the anger of a nation: this man has just been elected president of one of the biggest military powers on earth. Continue reading “Keep calm and carry on”

Beyond human boundaries

So Jesus was at the pub, eating and drinking and talking with whoever turned up. There were gay men and rainbow families; transgender teenagers; women who prioritised work over family life; some sex workers; a couple of drug addicts; more than a few atheists; and some traumatised Muslim asylum seekers. And these people were crowding around and listening to what he had to say. Just inside the door of the pub, a huddle of priests and ministers and good Christian types stood awkwardly clutching their glasses of warm mineral water and grumbling among themselves. “Who is this feller?” they were asking. “If he keeps hanging around those dodgy people, nobody will take him seriously. And what is he saying? If he’s telling stories like that, maybe he needs to rethink his connection with the church.” Continue reading “Beyond human boundaries”

Duke of Division, or Prince of Peace?

Isn’t it great to be here? Isn’t it a relief to be part of a new congregation with a bunch of people and a pastor who ‘get’ us? Isn’t it wonderful to be at a church that is not like the others? Here, women can claim their authority, and preach. Here, children can move around throughout the service. Here, the furniture is scuffed and wonky and nobody needs to worry about sticky fingers and sand on the floor. Here, we can ask difficult questions and not be censured. Here, people seek to integrate their lives and their faith, and we don’t have too many empty words. We’ve been listening to Jesus, we understand that his ways centre around hospitality, care for the vulnerable and peacemaking, and we’re all on board. Isn’t it great? Continue reading “Duke of Division, or Prince of Peace?”

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