Ishmael, Isaac, and the Shared Inheritance

Listen here.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘Biblical family values’ and thought this means one mum, one dad, a couple of kids, and everybody being nice to each other, then the story we just heard should rock you to the core. For here we have the father of our faith, Abraham, being bossed around by his feisty wife Sarah. She is insisting that he send his beloved older son into the wilderness. Years ago, she had arranged for Abraham to sleep with her personal slave, Hagar, and conceive this boy. Now, however, she has her own son, and so the other boy has become a threat. For God had promised Abraham a blessing: land, wealth, and descendants. From him would come a great nation—and Sarah didn’t want to share. Continue reading “Ishmael, Isaac, and the Shared Inheritance”

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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”

Fishing for People: The medium is the message

No matter how scary I try to look, what with my short hair, frown lines, and black clothes, I’m the person in the street everyone seems to approach. Sometimes, I’m asked for directions; sometimes, they want money or cigarettes; sometimes, I’m told a story. And sometimes, I’m asked if I’m saved. I used to answer, “it’s complicated”, but that opened up a whole conversation I didn’t want to have. Then I began saying “yes”—but I discovered that meant further questions to find out if I’m saved in the right way. I won’t tell you what I say now; but, it seems that, whatever I say, it’s almost impossible to shake such a questioner off. So when I hear Jesus saying that he will make his disciples fish for people, I feel a bit queasy. Continue reading “Fishing for People: The medium is the message”

Hate mail, or a love letter?

Lots of my friends don’t go to church. Some never had any experience of it; but many of

them have sat through countless services at school or with their families. Yet they have, at some stage, rejected it. There are lots of reasons for this, but one I often hear is ‘hell’. Perhaps my friends could not affirm or even understand justification by grace through faith; perhaps they found it a bit medieval and abstract to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour; perhaps they were same-sex attracted or feminist or having sex without marriage—whatever the sticking point, many of my friends were given to understand that a fiery hell awaits them if they cannot conform to the teachings of some Christians on these and similar things. And having been taught this, the Bible reads to them like hate mail from God. Continue reading “Hate mail, or a love letter?”

Possessions, possession, and the kingdom of God

We just all heard a great story from Jesus, in which a rich man hoards a heap of stuff and congratulates himself on it. But did you hear what God said to the rich man? “You nincompoop! On this night all your things are possessing your soul! You don’t own them; they own you. And all this stuff you have piled up, whose is it, anyway?” Someone like me needs to hear these words again and again, because I love stuff. I love old plates and pretty bowls and my grandmother’s piano. I love vintage chairs and crochet rugs; and I like to own lots of them. And so tonight’s words made me wonder, am I an idiot, too? Continue reading “Possessions, possession, and the kingdom of God”

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