John | A light so lovely

What has come into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:4b-5).

Another day, another flick through the news and my heart sinks. I am struck by how the loudest religious voices so often seize my appalled attention as they use scripture to prove others wrong or less-than, to shore up their own power and privilege, to undermine truth-telling and justice, and to discredit, shame and reject people. I feel angry, diminished, scornful, incredulous; and I reflect that much of the church is in a time of great and self-destructive darkness. Continue reading “John | A light so lovely”

Matthew | Like an arsonist

John the Baptizer has strong words for religious leaders; but, in the kingdom of heaven, even the most vulnerable person need not be afraid. (Listen.)

Sin. For many of us it’s a dirty word. Because many of us are recovering Christians. We are recovering from churches which preached judgement and condemnation, triggering fear and shame. We are recovering from feeling manipulated; we are recovering from the threat of hell; we are recovering from bad theology. We are recovering from mincing moralism which taught us to be afraid of our own desires. We are recovering from abusive shepherds and church leaders who stole our innocence away. We are recovering from all the ways the word ‘sin’ has been wielded like a weapon, to make us compliant and afraid. And yet, we are here. Continue reading “Matthew | Like an arsonist”

Matthew | Who’s listening?

This poem was written by Di Shearer, who has been worshipping with Sanctuary recently. It picks up themes of Sunday’s text with the expectancy of Advent. I encourage you to find a quiet space, and read it slowly and prayerfully.

For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Human One … Therefore, be ready! (Matthew 24:37, 44) 

There’s an old story about a man
who built a boat
in the middle of a waterless plain. Continue reading “Matthew | Who’s listening?”

Matthew | Like a thief

Jesus may come looking poor, scruffy, and dangerous – and he’ll probably take something precious away. (Listen.)

When a thief broke into our house one night, I was sound asleep. My husband was in Melbourne, but a friend and her daughters had come to stay. And so I was woken at 3am by my friend whispering, ‘Ali! Ali, wake up! There’s someone in the house …’ Heart pounding, I crawled out of bed, and we crept out together to see. And that’s when we found a thief in the dining room, pocketing my grandmother’s jewellery. Continue reading “Matthew | Like a thief”

Prayer | Into the garden

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43) 

It’s hard to read the Bible and not become a gardener: because gardens are central to our story. We begin in Genesis, in a beautiful place of innocence, life, creativity and newness. God walks the garden in the cool of the evening, crushing thyme between her fingertips and enjoying the heightened scent. Birds are settling into their roosts for the night; small sounds travel on the evening air; silvery leaves and white flowers seem to glow. Continue reading “Prayer | Into the garden”

Luke | Promises, paradise, and the vastness of love

Jesus rescues and redeems all people, and draws them into the presence of love. (Listen.)

Last week, the Baptist Union of NSW/ACT voted to effectively disaffiliate LGBTIQA+ affirming churches and disaccredit such pastors. It will also disaffiliate churches and disaccredit pastors who are committed to traditional Baptist values of freedom of conscience and congregational governance, and who on these grounds refuse to affirm a statement of marriage as the basis for affiliation. Continue reading “Luke | Promises, paradise, and the vastness of love”

Walking together in love: How LGBTIQA+ folk and allies make a church

Last weekend, the Baptist Union of NSW/ACT passed a motion that churches, faith communities and pastors who refuse for any reason to affirm a heteronormative statement of marriage will be disaffiliated or disaccredited. It’s beyond appalling, and it’s tempting for me to dissect all the ways this decision is destructive for people, churches and society. But for us here at Sanctuary,  who are not in NSW/ACT, this is the wrong focus just now. Instead, given the fear and concern it evokes in our own context, it will be more fruitful to remember who we are and what our work must be here. Continue reading “Walking together in love: How LGBTIQA+ folk and allies make a church”

Isaiah | The city of joy

Good health, good work, and good relationships come together to form a city of joy, and a people of delight. (Listen.)

A city of joy, its people a delight: this is what God promises through the prophet Isaiah. Sounds wonderful! So, what are the elements of this joyful city? First, says Isaiah, health and wellbeing. No child will die young; no senior die prematurely (Isa. 65:20). And we can imagine it. There are no coal-fired power stations; no rampaging wildfires; no unprecedented floods. There are no smouldering rainforests; no record-breaking heatwaves. No children or elders are struggling for breath through air thick with particulate matter; no one is sick from herbicides or forever chemicals because these are strictly banned; nobody is collapsing from extreme heat. Continue reading “Isaiah | The city of joy”

Luke | Slow reading | Zacchaeus: Negotiating crowds, making choices

Luke’s gospel tells us that Zacchaeus is a man of short stature; he cannot see Jesus because of the crowd. He is also limited by Roman rule, by social expectations, and by other people’s judgements. Yet he is so desperate to see Jesus for himself that he risks his dignity, climbing a sycamore tree in flapping robes to place himself in Jesus’ path. The next thing he knows, Christ is in his dwelling and at his table. Zacchaeus is so moved that he responds, unprompted, with generosity, justice and joy. Continue reading “Luke | Slow reading | Zacchaeus: Negotiating crowds, making choices”

Luke | Seven brothers, a hapless widow, a falling satellite, and what it means to truly live

Resurrection life is all about justice and love; and it begins now. (Listen.)

Some of you might remember the quirky tv show, Northern Exposure. A young urban Jewish doctor is sent to small town Alaska to pay off his tuition debt; and there he encounters all sorts of eccentric inhabitants, including Maggie. Maggie’s a bush pilot whose boyfriends all happen to die in bizarre ways. For example, there’s Dave, who freezes to death on a glacier, then Rick, who is killed by a falling satellite. Continue reading “Luke | Seven brothers, a hapless widow, a falling satellite, and what it means to truly live”

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