Beyond Welfare

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This is the week when I am supposed to preach a hard-hitting sermon, telling you to get off your butts and roll up your sleeves. Start a soup kitchen! House the homeless! Run a drop-in centre! Start a free medical clinic! And if you don’t … judgement awaits. But I won’t go there. Because many of you have been down that road, and you have burned out. It’s not that those things aren’t important—they are!—but that I don’t think that this work is the point of tonight’s passage. For welfare and overseas development agencies can only do so much. They can fill a stomach, or tackle addiction, or provide accommodation; but if we truly want to see people made whole, then we need something more.  Continue reading “Beyond Welfare”

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The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller

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Parables are like puzzle boxes. There are no easy answers, no straight readings. You can take a parable in several directions: how you interpret it depends on your faith community, your social location, your Biblical knowledge, your image of God, a good dose of the Holy Spirit, and—let’s be honest!—your mood. Now, most people have heard spiritual interpretations of the parable of the talents. In such a reading, those Christians who don’t use their money, time, gifts, and abilities to advance the kingdom of heaven will face God’s anger and judgement. But it’s interesting that nothing in the story says that the angry boss is God. So let’s swap the lens from spiritual to economic, and assume that Jesus meant the talents literally. A talent was a colossal unit of money, over a million dollars today: how might knowing this affect the reading? Listen as I riff on the story, and re-tell it in a modern context. Perhaps it will lead to a different place. And if it does, then, like all good parables, where you go from that place is up to you. So make yourself comfortable: it’s time for a story.  Continue reading “The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller”

Dry Paths through Seas of Chaos

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Last week, we named a few of issues facing our society: Catastrophic climate change. Corporate and political corruption. Imminent federal funding of the Adani coal mine. Macho posturing between the United States and North Korea. The plebiscite, and the vile rhetoric being unleashed against LGBTQI people. Australia’s abuse of people seeking asylum, and the suffering of the men trapped on Manus Island. Our nation’s history of genocide, and continuing discrimination against First Peoples. The exploitation of those who make many of our consumer goods. As the list grew, it became overwhelmingly obvious that only a fool would claim that life is good. These are desperate times in which violence is a deep, ever-present, and continuing reality, which affects every person, and all life, on earth. Continue reading “Dry Paths through Seas of Chaos”

Walk like an Egyptian … into the Promised Land

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As privileged people, we can’t simply claim the story of the Exodus without reflection, repentance, and concrete response. But if we are willing to hear God’s grief and anger at the suffering of the poor; if we are willing to acknowledge the horrors of our past; if we are willing to engage with the violence of our present, then we can move towards a different future. Continue reading “Walk like an Egyptian … into the Promised Land”

Stepping through the ethical minefield with Jesus

Before we moved to Warrnambool, we lived in an area of Melbourne which was a hive of ethical activity. Our clothes were locally made or from the op shop. We rode our bikes to buy direct trade coffee, then ducked into organic wholefoods for some ethical groceries. What we couldn’t buy there, we’d get at the IGA, after checking each company against our sustainable supermarket guide. We grew our greens and herbs; experimented with Community Supported Agriculture, but got sick of all those potatoes; so opted into a local veggie box instead. Our honey came from local hives; our socks were made in Brunswick; we purchased gifts from local artisans; our furniture was second hand. Even our house renovation appeared in a green architecture magazine. There were times when we were so ethical, it makes me sick. Of course, we lived this way because we were trying to be followers of Jesus—and because we were surrounded by people also seeking to live more sustainably, the critical mass made it easy. But every now and then, or maybe quite a lot, I’d feel someone, probably me, rolling her eyes because a coffee wasn’t fair, or a chair was from IKEA, or the eggs were from battery hens—and I’d wonder if I’d missed the point. Continue reading “Stepping through the ethical minefield with Jesus”

The Honours List

Last week, the annual Australia Day Honours List was announced: a list of people recognised for their contribution to our nation. So it is timely that in tonight’s reading, Jesus gives us his own honours list: the people honoured for the way they embody and contribute to God’s culture. The Australia Day Honours List usually includes politicians, military officers, scientists, sports stars, charity workers, artists, businesspeople, and others. Who do we find on Jesus’ honours list? Well, as you can imagine, it’s a bit different. Continue reading “The Honours List”

Dreamers and truth seekers

Today is the start of a new year, a time when we think about the year that has been, and our dreams for tomorrow. And the text for today is from Revelation, John’s book of dreams. So let’s talk about dreams. The dreams of yesterday, and the dreams of tomorrow. I want to go back and consider the dreamers of the Christian tradition. There are many great dreamers in the Christian tradition, stretching in a great line from Jesus himself right down to our own times. But let’s begin our reflections at one particular point in time, with the dreams of Reverend Martin Luther King, a great dreamer of the twentieth century. Continue reading “Dreamers and truth seekers”

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”

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