#36: Render unto Caesar: #40ways40days

Jesus said to the scribes and the chief priests, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’  (Luke 20:25)

The first trap of this story is to sucker Jesus into an ego debate. If these Pharisees could manage this it would mean a duel of minds rather than a search for truth. The real question would be: did Jesus win? Continue reading “#36: Render unto Caesar: #40ways40days”

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#24: Reconcile: #40ways40days

Jesus asked his disciples: ‘And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.’ (Luke 12:57-59)

Whether we are talking of warring couples or warring nations, it is an extraordinary challenge to move from blaming people, toward understanding patterns and our own part in them. It is a similarly huge challenge that our wish to understand the other party be as great as our wish to be understood. Because I watch some individuals and families meet this challenge in the most difficult of circumstances … I continue to maintain hope. Continue reading “#24: Reconcile: #40ways40days”

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”

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”

Warm boulders and other blessings

So I’m back! I’ve spent the last two weeks travelling in Jordan, Israel and Palestine, and I’m full to brimming with the sights, sounds, scents, conversations and reflections I absorbed there. It was a wonderful experience, which I suspect will thrum behind much that I say and do over the next few years. There were many moving moments: sailing on a wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee; seeing the hideous wall blockading Bethlehem; being shown through the Holocaust Museum by a man whose entire extended family was murdered by the Nazis; thinking about the meaning of peace for Israel and Palestine; and singing with friends in a stone tomb in Petra. I fell in love with Jerusalem, that lively, colourful, historic, contested and conflicted city; and again and again Psalm 122 came to mind; although as for how Jerusalem will find peace, like so many others I do not know. Continue reading “Warm boulders and other blessings”

Into the Storm: A Script

Tonight we re-tell a story from the gospel according to Mark in which Jesus sleeps in a boat, a storm blows in, and the disciples panic. By way of background, Mark uses the image of a boat as a symbol for the gathered community of faith; crossing to the other shore suggests moving between Jewish and Gentile territories.  As you participate in the story, then, you might want to reflect on times when you have seen a faith community attacked: What provoked the attack? And what enabled the community to continue in its course of action (if it did)? Or you might want to reflect on your own relationship with Jesus: Are you a student, content to value his teaching? Or are you a disciple, who seeks to internalise his teaching?  Continue reading “Into the Storm: A Script”

Bread and Stories, and the Transforming Power of Love

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We’re coming up to a big milestone in our shared history. Just under a year ago, a bunch of us stood up and committed to journey together as a congregation here. And so, over the last twelve months, we have met regularly to sing, and pray, and listen to the Scriptures, and to eat and drink together. And as we have engaged in these fundamental disciplines of the committed Christian life, we have been travelling with Jesus. For when we gather around Word and Table—bread and stories—then Jesus Christ, who is the bread of life and the Word made flesh, promises to be among us. Continue reading “Bread and Stories, and the Transforming Power of Love”

Waiting for the liberator: A meditation

Make yourself comfortable, and give yourself time to ponder the images and questions here. A meditation on Matthew 21:1-11 for Palm Sunday, 2017. You can also listen here.

One day, he will come. He will enter the city in triumph, and free the people from the occupying forces. Maybe he’ll be wearing a thick leather jerkin, and riding a battle horse. Maybe he’ll have a sword at his side. Maybe he’ll bring an army of rebels, ready to raise hell and throw out the oppressors: self-serving politicians, rapacious business owners, corrupt bureaucrats, mercenary soldiers, powerful predators, those who place profits before people, those who stay silent in the face of violence. Continue reading “Waiting for the liberator: A meditation”

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”

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