Ishmael, Isaac, and the Shared Inheritance

Listen here.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘Biblical family values’ and thought this means one mum, one dad, a couple of kids, and everybody being nice to each other, then the story we just heard should rock you to the core. For here we have the father of our faith, Abraham, being bossed around by his feisty wife Sarah. She is insisting that he send his beloved older son into the wilderness. Years ago, she had arranged for Abraham to sleep with her personal slave, Hagar, and conceive this boy. Now, however, she has her own son, and so the other boy has become a threat. For God had promised Abraham a blessing: land, wealth, and descendants. From him would come a great nation—and Sarah didn’t want to share. Continue reading “Ishmael, Isaac, and the Shared Inheritance”

Hope, Love, and Laughter: The gifts that strangers bring

Listen here.

Why do we listen to stories of old? Not just the Jesus stories, but the stories before his time. What do we do with them? Well, Jesus didn’t come out of nowhere. The older stories lie behind the Jesus stories; and they greatly enrich our understanding of his life and ministry. And so when we hear these older stories, we do well to use our imaginations: to listen to the story, yes, but also to wonder how it relates to or echoes or emphasises or reinterprets other stories that we know. And because we are Christians gathered as a worshipping community, our lens will always be Christ: we will always be seeking pointers to Christ, with whom and in whom we are gathered. With this in mind, let’s turn to tonight’s story. Continue reading “Hope, Love, and Laughter: The gifts that strangers bring”

Cheeky acts of forgiveness

Once upon a time, the churches were commissioned to go out and participate in the mission of God: to bring good news to the poor, to free the captives, to heal the sick, to forgive debts, and to make disciples. Yet much of the church took this as a mandate to accrue wealth and wield power. Some preachers controlled their flocks through fear; some upheld violent nation-states to their own advantage; some wielded proof texts like a weapon. Some religious leaders took advantage of vulnerable people, while others used their power to cover up their colleagues’ acts of abuse. Churches hoarded riches, and locked them away; denominations invested in corporations that denuded the forests and poisoned the rivers. Some congregations became private clubs, and made anyone who was different feel deeply unwelcome; some became places of such vitriolic hatred that all who came into contact with them were burned. All these goings-on in God’s name made God feel totally ripped off. So God decided to leave the churches, and let them fend for themselves. Continue reading “Cheeky acts of forgiveness”

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”

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