Cartalk / Tabletalk 15: Celebrate justice, grieve suffering

As weve read through Exodus, weve switched switching between Egyptian and Israelite identities – but it all comes to a head in this story. The Egyptian army is destroyed; and when the Israelites see their bodies washed up on the shore, they sing and dance for joy. If we dont celebrate when justice is done, we dont care enough; but if we celebrate when people suffer, we lose our humanity. How can we celebrate when hurtful people receive justice without losing our humanity? Continue reading “Cartalk / Tabletalk 15: Celebrate justice, grieve suffering”

It’s about family violence, but not as you might think

To suggest victims of family violence should ‘turn the other cheek’ is a toxic distortion of Jesus’ teaching. A look at the context of these words, and how they are an invitation to challenge all forms of violence and control, including within the family. (Listen.)

It has been a terrible week. Those of us who keep an eye on the news know that, yet again, a family has been destroyed by violence. Hannah Clarke and her children are only the most recent victims of a culture which infects our nation. For while this event is at the extreme end, family violence is very common. Some of us have been personally scarred by family violence; many of us work with victim-survivors of family violence; and most of us have friends and loved ones for whom family violence is a lived experience. Continue reading “It’s about family violence, but not as you might think”

We need to talk about hell

Hell is the location of human violence, not God’s; “indeed, it did not even enter my mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31) (Listen.)

Some of us grew up with threats of hell, that burning lake of fire and brimstone into which the sinful will be cast at death to their everlasting fiery torment. Given how regularly hell comes up in many a church’s preaching and in popular culture, and given how graphically it is described, you might wonder why I never mention it. Am I avoiding all the nasty bits of the Bible? Well, no—but I think it’s time we had that little chat: we need to talk about hell. Continue reading “We need to talk about hell”

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”

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!”

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”

Revelation at Armageddon

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To get to Armageddon, known in Hebrew as ‘Megiddo’, we drive past an airfield. Our Israeli guide tells us about the Syrian pilot who defected there in 1989. He was flying a Soviet-made MIG-23 fighter jet, which provided Israel with valuable military intelligence—and it feels like nothing ever changes. For in the Hebrew Bible, Megiddo is the site of many clashes where victory is attributed to God; in the book of Revelation, it’s the site where the kings of the world are assembled for a final battle. And so for many people Megiddo, or Armageddon, has long been associated with the destructive violence we expect from kings, whether human or divine: and thousands of years after these stories were first told, the military continues to be active here. Continue reading “Revelation at Armageddon”

Esther

Esther is often portrayed as a love story. So let’s begin by making some observations. King Xerxes eliminated Queen Vashti when she refused to parade herself in front of an extended men-only drinking bout. Having got rid of her, Xerxes needed a new queen. His advisors suggested he seize all the beautiful young virgins, give each one a night to prove herself, and choose from among them. So Esther did not line up at the palace flapping an application form for a beauty pageant; nor did the king pick her for her personality. Instead, she was a vulnerable young woman who was noticed for her beauty and abducted by the king’s brute squad, and whose only hope for survival lay in pleasing the king’s eunuch – for then he “provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food (2:9). A year of beauty treatment and education prepared her for the next step in her survival: sexually captivating the king. In other words, Esther has less agency than a bunny in the Playboy Mansion and yet, even in such terrifying, humiliating and unpromising circumstances, her courage, obedience and wisdom saves the Jewish people from annihilation. Continue reading “Esther”

Vultures, Victims and Vengeance

DANIELLE STOTT WRITES: “The vulture sitting on the cross represents clergy who abuse their flock. The vulture is in fact sitting on the cross, holding it down on Christ. Meanwhile the sheep, Christ’s people, who he shepherds, walk away from the cross (or the vulture?) in confusion and hurt. So Christ carries his cross alone, in agony and deep sadness; almost being crushed by its weight. The sheep head towards the light, but of course it is false hope because Jesus said “come follow me” as he was on the way to Golgotha, to darkness.”  Continue reading “Vultures, Victims and Vengeance”

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