A bracing antidote to Christmas chaos

The prophet John provides a bracing antidote to Christmas consumer chaos. (Listen.)

It’s the second week of Advent, a time of preparation, and many of us are indeed preparing. We’re negotiating with families over who gets Christmas lunch, and who gets only Boxing Day. We’re arguing over whether to buy presents for everyone, or just the kids, or no one. We’re wondering if we can do handmade or recycled gifts, knowing we’ve left it too late, and that an avalanche of plastic is heading our way. We’re ordering hams and Christmas puddings; we’re decorating the house; we’re making lists and checking them twice. We’re juggling end-of-year events, and wading through Santa songs and pre-Christmas sales. Continue reading “A bracing antidote to Christmas chaos”

Taking on the mantle

Just as Elisha’s glimpse of God’s reality enables him to take on the prophet’s mantle, our glimpses of God’s kingdom empower us to become disciples. (Listen.)

I’m going to let you in on a secret: There are times when I hate being a grown up. Sure, I get to drive and spend money; but if I make a mess, I have to clean it up. When I drop something on the floor, I have to pick it up. If I do something wrong, I have to put it right. If I’m hungry, I have to cook; if I’m bored, I have to find something to do; if I’m lonely, I have to arrange a playdate; if I’m tired, I have to put myself to bed. When I see a job that needs to be done, it’s usually me that needs to do it. I know I look reasonably competent, but half the time I’m just bumbling around, trying to work out how to serve the church or write a sermon or love my enemy or do any of the other things I’m supposed to do. There are days when I wish a great big mother would drop down out of the sky and clean up my messes, bake me a plum cake, and tell me what to do. Continue reading “Taking on the mantle”

Spirituality for the chaos of life

Most spiritual teachings assume solitude and silence, but the story of Elijah suggests that a healthy God-centred spirituality is grounded in the hustle and bustle of community. (Listen.)

Once upon a time, long long ago, when my kids were young, I felt for a while that my faith and spirituality had to go on hold. Life was so busy, and the kids were so demanding, and everywhere I went there were people. People needing a nappy change; people needing a story; people needing a cuddle; people needing a cuppa; people needing a neighbour; people needing a friend; people needing a volunteer; people needing a worker. Everything I had ever read about spirituality was about spending quiet time alone with God: yet quiet time alone was exactly what I never had. Continue reading “Spirituality for the chaos of life”

The Way of Jesus Christ

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The Australian politician walked onto the stage, glanced at his iPad, and said: “The spirit of the mob is upon me, because the mob has appointed me to bring good news to the rich. It has sent me to place boat arrivals into indefinite detention, to close the eyes of the clear-sighted, to extend mandatory sentencing, and to proclaim the day of violent judgement of our God … And this prophetic work is for the benefit of straight white middle class Australians who call themselves Christian—and no one else.” Continue reading “The Way of Jesus Christ”

Visions of an Angry Prophet

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I recently came across the idea of a life verse: that is, the idea that there is a Bible verse for each of us which encapsulates who we are, and guides our journey of faith. I rolled my eyes. Straightaway, two verses hit me. From Jonah: “It is indeed right for me to be angry, even unto death.” And from Psalm 139: “You knit me in my mother’s womb; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We like our pastors to be nice — but I can’t promise you that. For I have been fearfully and wonderfully made: as an angry prophet. And like Bartimaeus, my faith has opened my eyes; and as I look around, I see too many practices in our churches which deny too many people their full and God-given humanity. Continue reading “Visions of an Angry Prophet”

The Sacrificial Cult of Work

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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”

Prepare the Way: But How?

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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?”

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”

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