Predatory foxes and powerless hens

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Please be aware that this reflection includes a description of family violence.

“Where was God?” a friend once wrote to me. “Where was God when my father was on the rampage, trying to break down my bedroom door? Where was God when I was hiding under the dining room table, shaking and terrified? Why didn’t God keep me safe?” There’s an old children’s song that goes like this: “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do …” And when I think of my dear friend, who sang songs like this in religious education classes at school, and who begged God to keep her safe from her father at home, my heart breaks. Continue reading “Predatory foxes and powerless hens”

Pell-mell to the cross

It is Lent, and one of the most powerful men in the Catholic church has just been sentenced to jail for the sexual assault of two altar boys. It reminds me of a terrible story by the Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, which is based on his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. Three people were sentenced to hanging for sabotage, among them a young boy. The two men died quickly, but the boy, too light, writhed and swung between life and death for over half an hour. Continue reading “Pell-mell to the cross”

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!”

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”

The Ring Theory of Kvetching

My mother was a pastoral caregiver: the person everyone approached to talk, weep and rage through life’s crises. When she became sick, a problem emerged. People would come and pour out their strong feelings about her illness (not theirs); and she, in pain and exhausted, would quell her own feelings and comfort them as best as she was able – even as she desperately needed comforting herself. Continue reading “The Ring Theory of Kvetching”

Suffering: Who’s to blame?

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There is a story in the gospel according to John which begins like this: Jesus was walking along when he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” These days, we’re not quite so quick to blame people for being differently abled or ill. And yet when my mother, Ruth, had multiple sclerosis, I lost count of the number of people who became frustrated, even angry, with her. “But she’s such a good person!” they said, “How can she be so sick?” “But we’re praying!” they said, “Why isn’t she getting better? Is she praying, too?” Continue reading “Suffering: Who’s to blame?”

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”

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