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”
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.
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.
‘There are no final proofs for the existence of God; there are only witnesses.’ Abraham Joshua Heschel. (Listen.)
Like you, like me, John was not the light. Instead, he was sent as a witness to testify to the light which is the life of the world, and he does this in three movements: through his identification with Scripture; through particular activities; and through grounded self-knowledge. Before we hear somebody else’s witness, let’s take a closer look. Continue reading “Witnesses to the light”
When does the church grow? Looking back on our life together, I am struck by the growth which has happened each time someone has made themselves vulnerable. Perhaps someone wrote a Wednesday email or a Lenten reflection which was wholehearted and brave: and when you read it, you felt the spirit stirring within you. Perhaps someone spoke during a service, asking a question, naming a difficulty, giving a testimony or requesting prayer: and, when you heard them, you sensed the spirit’s rich honeyed presence. Perhaps someone emailed the list asking for help: and when you turned up ready to move a house, or hand over soup, or take a kid to soccer, or pray, you stepped into the presence of love.
“I, God, speak shalom, shalom to my faithful people who pivot their hearts to me.” Healing is coming near; glory is filling the land. Love and faithfulness hug; peace and justice kiss. Faithfulness sprouts up from the earth; justice leans down from heaven. God pours out riches: the land springs to life. Justice clears God’s path. Justice points the way. (Psalm 85:8b-13). Continue reading “Group reflection: Justice, gardening and dirty hands (Ps. 85)”
Christmas is coming, and to many it seems unbearable. When sickness and death are unfolding all around us, when arrogant strongmen stalk the earth, when poverty is becoming only more entrenched, when our own families, finances and mental health are feeling fragile, even shattered, how can we possibly celebrate?
A contextual re-telling of Mark’s little apocalypse reveals its ongoing relevance and truth. (Listen.)
Sophie and the gang had been at the Centre, where cardinals swanned around in brocade robes and mega-church pastors wore thousand-dollar sneakers. These religious authorities were well-known, successful. They had access to the prime minister and all his cronies; they were all over tv and social media. Everybody knew God had blessed them with wealth and health; everybody knew they could get in on the blessing by donating to the building fund.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my lifestyle gave to me: twelve days of shopping, eleven Christmas parties, ten children’s concerts, nine knotted stomachs, eight toxic in-laws, seven toddlers’ tantrums, six spousal quarrels, five road trips, four splitting headaches, three sick kids, many bouts of tears, and a present under the tree. Continue reading “To receive the promises of Advent, we need to make room”
Christ’s incarnation is often underwhelming. It is up to us to look at the evidence, and decide if it’s the real deal. (Listen.)
Is this all there is? Our faith tells us that God is neither distant nor remote. After the resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven to be everywhere present: and this gift of Christ’s presence was poured out into the world at the first Pentecost and continues to be in the world now. Continue reading “Is this the real deal? You decide”