Open Heart, Open Mind: Reading the Bible with Jesus

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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”

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Living Death, or Resurrection Life: You Choose

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Kathleen Norris tells a story of two women she knew, both of whom were diagnosed with terminal cancer. The first woman said, “If I ever get out of this hospital, I’m going to look out for Number One.” Despite the diagnosis, she survived, and went on to live only for herself—and, as Norris writes, “it made her mean.” The second reflected on the blessings of her life, despite some acute early losses. This woman read the Psalms, and said to Norris, “The one thing that scares me is the pain. I hope I die before I turn into an old bitch.” And that’s exactly what happened.  Continue reading “Living Death, or Resurrection Life: You Choose”

Women’s Work: Ministry or Service?

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I wonder what Simon’s mother-in-law prepared for Jesus and his disciples. Pita bread and hommous? Rice wrapped in vine leaves? Dried figs, almonds, and a soft mound of goats’ cheese? When Jesus visits Simon’s house, Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed. But although it’s the Sabbath, and although she’s a woman, and although she’s sick, Jesus touches her. She is healed; she gets out of bed; and she begins to serve them: and in the Middle East, that always means food.  Continue reading “Women’s Work: Ministry or Service?”

Good Sandwich, Great Teaching

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How weird is this: Jesus goes to a religious centre, encounters a man with an unclean spirit, and exorcises him. And all the people say, “Wow! What a teacher!” Throughout the Gospel of Mark, as Jesus sends away many unclean and demonic spirits, the people keep calling him ‘Teacher’. And his tour culminates in the cleansing of the temple: and “the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching!”—except, of course, those who sought to kill him. I’m guessing by now the teachers here are mentally raising their eyebrows. Perform an exorcism at Warrnambool College, and you’ll have all the people running away screaming; they won’t be praising the teacher. So what’s going on here? Continue reading “Good Sandwich, Great Teaching”

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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