One Rule to Ring Them All

Listen here.

Tonight we reflect on a story in the gospel of Mark, when a man with a withered hand reaches out to Jesus and is healed. Yet it’s the Sabbath, and so the Pharisees go ballistic. But first … another story. A Catholic woman I know grew up in St Kilda, with a synagogue at the end of her street. One Friday night, when the Sabbath was already underway, there was a knock at the door. Her parents were sitting around in their dressing gowns, reading, but her mother got up, and answered the door anyway. There she found a few of their neighbours, Orthodox Jewish men. “The lights are out in the synagogue!” they said. “We can’t turn them on [it was something they were forbidden to do on the Sabbath] … so would you mind coming and switching them on?”  Continue reading “One Rule to Ring Them All”

Advertisements

Birthed by the Spirit: Beloved by God

Introduction: Sometimes, we respond to the readings (John 3:5-8 and Romans 8:12-17)  with a sermon. Sometimes, we have a conversation. Sometimes, like last week, people testify to God’s action in the world and their lives. And sometimes, we have a guided meditation which invites you to enter deeply into the readings. Tonight it’s a meditation. Listen to the song below; then work slowly through the meditation. Be aware that the meditation uses gendered language for God, language which the Biblical writers used. There are times when we analyse and even question this language: but tonight, I invite you to let it be. Instead, just rest in the imagery, and see what emerges in the silence.  Continue reading “Birthed by the Spirit: Beloved by God”

Open Heart, Open Mind: Reading the Bible with Jesus

Listen here.

Like the wider Christian church, our congregation includes people who hold very different ideas about how to live. Some of us acknowledge the possibility of a just war; others believe that peacemaking is the only way. Some of us proclaim salvation through Christ alone; others, that there are many paths to God. Some of us freely affirm faithful homosexual relationships; others reject the idea that any such relationship could be godly. We are all reading the same Bible, yet our conclusions can clash. So what’s happening here? And what’s the way forward? Continue reading “Open Heart, Open Mind: Reading the Bible with Jesus”

The Sacrificial Cult of Work

Listen here.

What sacrificial system do we operate in? What system of meaning takes most of our time and energy, gives most of us a profound sense of identity, and for most of us is also an expression of faithfulness? And what same system of meaning can be hostile to women and children, and largely excludes people who are poor, sick, or disabled? For that is what the temple was for Israel: a social, financial, and spiritual hub, which gave people a powerful sense of identity. It was an expression of Israel’s faithfulness; but it was an expression which largely excluded women, children, and people who were disabled, sick, or poor.  Continue reading “The Sacrificial Cult of Work”

Jonah: Ministry without reservation

The book of Jonah is a powerful, difficult, and demanding book, more relevant than ever: for it shows a man walking into the epicentre of globalisation and military violence, unarmed, to preach the end of the age. Christians often think they should feel warm, fuzzy, loving thoughts towards the other; but, like Jesus, Jonah shows us that love means placing our very bodies among those we fear, hate, or simply don’t understand. Whether this means the extreme of walking into Mosul, the modern-day Ninevah, and preaching God’s word; or whether it means crossing the barriers of religion, age, class, or cultural, gender, or sexual identity in relationship, this radical enemy-love lies at the heart of the gospel – and it is terrifying.  Continue reading “Jonah: Ministry without reservation”

Prepare the Way: But How?

Listen here.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I lived in Washington, DC. We went to a church which was once Harry Truman’s, then Jimmy Carter’s; and the Clintons came a couple times. Its members included diplomats, military men, and CIA staff; investors, bankers, and millionaires; presidential advisors, scientists, and journalists; and a governor of the Federal Reserve. So one of the hardest things about moving to Warrnambool is the teeny-tiny feeling that I have dropped off the face of the earth. It’s not a hamlet; but compared to living in our capital city, let alone the city I once lived in, Warrnambool feels remote indeed. It’s not that the powerful had any time for me; it’s just that I’m used to thinking that power is all around me. And at some deep level, I assume—wrongly—that big and powerful human places is where the real stuff happens: the God-stuff.  Continue reading “Prepare the Way: But How?”

Beyond Welfare

Listen here.

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”

The Great Leader and the Gravedigger

Listen here.

Here we are, at the end of Moses’ epic journey. He has led the people out of Egypt, through the desert, across the Red Sea; he has brought them out of slavery, and turned them away from idol worship and towards God; no one has ever shown such mighty power or performed such awesome deeds; he is the greatest prophet the world has ever known; and the promised land is in sight. If this were an ordinary story, we all know what would happen next: a red carpet unfurling, trumpets ringing out, and Moses riding a white stallion as he leads the people in triumph into the land. Except, this is no ordinary story.  Instead, Moses encounters a gravedigger.  Continue reading “The Great Leader and the Gravedigger”

The Beautiful Backside of God

Listen  here.

Yet again, our government has shown itself to be anti-Biblical: for mooning has been made explicitly illegal in the State of Victoria. From the first of July, anyone who pulls down their dacks and bares their bum in public risks two months in jail; if they do it again, they risk six months. And so a great Judaeo-Christian tradition has been outlawed. For, as we just heard, when Moses begs to see God’s face, God refuses. Instead, God announces that God will tuck Moses into a gap in the rock and cover him while God’s glory passes by. Then, when it is safe, God will remove the holy hand and Moses will see the marvellous moon, the beautiful backside of God. Most translations gloss over this glorious glimpse: but mooning is precisely what God does. And yet it has now been made illegal. So much for freedom of religious expression. Continue reading “The Beautiful Backside of God”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑