Let’s Make a Splash!

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Baptism. It’s something John offered, and something Jesus underwent, and something his disciples are told to do. It’s got something to do with water and washing and sin: but what is it, actually? What are we doing, what are we declaring, who are we becoming when we are baptised? What does it all mean? Tonight’s story offers a few clues, but to explore the depths, we’ll first need to zoom out a little. Continue reading “Let’s Make a Splash!”

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Winnowing out only violence, or the move from John to Jesus

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Some years back, I saw a woman in a carpark smacking her child. And as she smacked, she yelled, “WE DO NOT HIT IN THIS FAMILY! WE LOVE!” It reminded me of those ostensibly Biblical parenting models, in which cool and collected parents maintain discipline by spanking their naughty children—and then lovingly use the moment as a teaching opportunity. Because the people being hit are children, and because our society doesn’t rate children’s experiences very highly, we adults can miss the contradiction here. Yet if we substitute ‘women’ for ‘children’, perhaps things become clearer: even if it’s ‘just a smack’, there is a mixed message going on, to say the least. Continue reading “Winnowing out only violence, or the move from John to Jesus”

You Are Not Defiled

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In tonight’s reading, religious leaders criticise Jesus’ disciples for failing to wash their hands in the correct ritual way before they eat. Jesus pushes back, hard, and goes on to say that we are not defiled by what we eat and drink. Instead, it’s the things we say and do which can defile us. But what if his disciples were criticised, not for failing to keep kosher, but for failing to maintain “Biblical family values”? For a region hard-hit by clergy abuse, here’s a new take on an old story. Continue reading “You Are Not Defiled”

One Rule to Ring Them All

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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”

Blessed is the No-Good Trickster

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Once upon a time, there was a family: and this is a story from its beginnings, what we call its genesis. You’ve heard of Father Abraham and Mother Sarah, yes? And how they had a son named Isaac? Well, this is a story about Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and their double trouble. Isaac loved Rebekah dearly, but she couldn’t have children. For twenty years, 240 months, there was nix, nada, nothing! No baby! Finally, Isaac prayed to his father’s God, the God of life: and God heard his prayer. Rebekah conceived—but oh! it was twins! and oh! it was difficult. Her belly, it swelled and swelled, and the babies inside, they fought and fought, and she felt like she was being torn apart. So she went and asked the God of life about it. Continue reading “Blessed is the No-Good Trickster”

The King of Hearts meets the Queen of Tarts

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She has three strikes against her. One, she is female. No religiously correct man would let himself be caught alone with a strange woman; he certainly wouldn’t be chatting with her. Two, she is a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans don’t mix; and they certainly don’t eat or drink together. Three, she’s had five husbands, and now she’s with a man she is not even married to. She’s hot stuff; her reputation is shot. Other women go to the well at dawn and at dusk. They go in groups, to stay safe; and as they walk and draw water, they share the news of the day. She goes at noon. She avoids the other women: the stares and the gossip, the snippy comments and the icy silences. She goes alone. Continue reading “The King of Hearts meets the Queen of Tarts”

Anatomy of a Murder

Whodunnit? It’s the question asked of every murder mystery. Perhaps it’s Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the lead piping; or maybe it’s Miss Scarlet in the dining room with the candlestick. But “whodunnit?” is not a question that is asked very often about the death of Jesus: either we don’t think about it, or we assume that we know. But if we take a closer look, we might find that the answer to “whodunnit?”, that is, who demanded Jesus’ death, is not exactly what we assume; yet whodunnit has enormous implications for our faith. Continue reading “Anatomy of a Murder”

Christian Family Values?

I was pottering around a local op shop last week; and while I was there, I overheard some pretty strong affirmations of Christian family values. It was clear to those chatting that, if we all lived like Christians, things would be a whole lot better than they are now. Families would stay together; kids would be properly disciplined; and no one would be on the dole. I’m not entirely sure what they meant by ‘Christian’, but I do know that, at this time of year, the Holy Family—Mary, Joseph, and Jesus—is often held up as a model for the Western nuclear family. Continue reading “Christian Family Values?”

Scandal!

If you identify as Christian, tonight’s reading quite possibly made you angry—and I’m warning you now, this sermon might make you furious! For like the older brother in the Prodigal Son, many of us Christians find God’s generosity a bit hard to stomach. What on earth am I talking about? Well, as we just heard, Jesus is crucified between two criminals. One mocks him; the other acknowledges his own sinfulness and asks Jesus to remember him. Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” And what we hear is that one criminal died mocking and implicitly condemned; the other, having acknowledged his sin, died forgiven and was guaranteed a place in heaven. In other words, this second man never even gets to the field, let alone works a full day; and yet he receives the full reward. Continue reading “Scandal!”

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