A hard time to handle

I don’t know about you, but I find Christmas hard time to handle. Every year, I am confronted by the clash between fantasy and reality: the fantasy, in which the community of faith gathers to hear the story and celebrate, and the reality, where most people will be away, attending family functions in other places. The fantasy, where I am surrounded by a big family and am nurtured by older women, and the reality, in which I have a tiny family, and have been the oldest woman for nearly two decades. The fantasy, that in lieu of a big family I could invite a host of “widows and orphans” to the table, and the reality, that my children want a closed table on this one special day. Continue reading “A hard time to handle”

Luke | Background briefing & script

This week we had a congregational reading of Luke 1:1-2:40, with songs (Luke: The Musical!). You can download the script (scripture, songs, prayers and questions) here. This is the background briefing, preparing us Gentiles to hear a very Jewish story.

The gospel according to Luke has often been described as the gospel for the Gentiles. At the very beginning, it is addressed to ‘Theophilus.’ Theophilus can simply be a name; but it means ‘god-lover.’ A god-lover was a Gentile who had come to know and worship the God of the Jews without converting to Judaism (i.e. without circumcision and without adopting Torah); and there were many God-lovers. Continue reading “Luke | Background briefing & script”

Mary: Prophetic, intelligent, unafraid

Portrayals of Mary tend to the aristocratic, the submissive, the vapid; but the gospel reveals an intelligent young woman who stands in the prophetic tradition. (Listen.)

When you think of Mary, how do you imagine her? I don’t know about you, but I was raised in the Western artistic tradition. When I think of Mary, the first thing that usually comes to mind are images from the Italian Renaissance. That is, I see an elegant, pale woman in a royal blue dress. Continue reading “Mary: Prophetic, intelligent, unafraid”

Where God’s word comes

God’s word comes the one who forsakes privilege, lives simply, works for justice … and listens. (Listen.)

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I lived in Washington, DC. We went to a church which was once Harry Truman’s, then Jimmy Carter’s; and while we were there the Clintons came a couple times. Members included presidential advisors, scientists, and journalists; officers in the military and CIA staff; senior bureaucrats and retired diplomats; professors, stockbrokers, and a governor of the Federal Reserve. A lot of power was concentrated at that church, and there were some incredibly committed and godly people. Continue reading “Where God’s word comes”

God gives sleep to the beloved

As the year draws to a close, many of us are engaging in the great December tradition of running harder than ever. Work is crazy-busy, and our calendars are filled with end-of-year deadlines, functions and events – so much so that some of us have already said we won’t be at church until February. As one person said a few years ago, “I barely have time to breathe in Advent, let alone reflect.” Continue reading “God gives sleep to the beloved”

A tender shoot of love and justice

Jesus embodies ancient hopes for justice, nonviolence, and peace between all peoples. As people grafted into this righteous branch, we must embody these qualities, too. (Listen.)

So it’s Advent: a paradoxical time-slip in which we look forward to the coming of the one who was born, and lived, and died, and was raised, and lives among us now. It’s a time of anticipating more than ever God’s kingdom come. It’s a time of hopeful expectation of a world turned rightside up, a world where love and justice reign, and vulnerable people are raised up, and the arrogant are cast down. Continue reading “A tender shoot of love and justice”

Group reflection: The Christmas story

Christmas Eve, and a group of people met in a carpark (thanks, COVID). Some are founding members of the congregation; others, first-timers visiting for Christmas. Some have been Christians all their lives; others are atheists who have never been in a church before. Together, we heard the stories of Christmas (Luke 1:26-2:20; Matthew 2:3-12) and reflected on how and for whom this story is good news, as follows … Continue reading “Group reflection: The Christmas story”

Government orders and new friends: 2020 in a nutshell

In this, our final Sanctuary email for the year, I invited one of our recent high school graduates, Ellen, to reflect. She writes:

As a (younger) kid I remember waiting eagerly all year for the Christmas Eve service at my church, as it meant I had a chance to stay up late and gorge myself on Christmas treats, getting home after midnight and barely sleeping until I remembered it was Christmas and thus obviously time for presents! This year is similar except instead of staying up late, I’m looking forward to the chance to sleep in, spend a relatively quiet Christmas with family I haven’t seen enough and celebrate an end of sorts to a crazy year.

Continue reading “Government orders and new friends: 2020 in a nutshell”

Being virgin is a superpower

Mary’s virginity has nothing to do with passivity or innocence. Instead, it’s the independent attitude which undergirds her prophetic power. (Listen.)

The first time I heard the word ‘virgin’, I was in primary school. I was confronted by a mean little gang who asked hungrily, ‘Are you a virgin?’ The way they said it, it was clearly a dirty word, and so of course I said, ‘No.’ They howled with laughter, and I felt so ashamed. I asked them to explain the word, but they just snickered some more, then ran off to the next poor sucker.

Continue reading “Being virgin is a superpower”

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