The real #FirstWorldProblems

Most of us assume that wealth is a blessing and a privilege, but Jesus says otherwise. A reflection on one of his most ignored teachings (which, if taken seriously, would pretty much resolve the climate crisis and heal the world). (Listen.)

So I ordered a latte, and I don’t know whether the barista was having a bad day or whether the coffee shop is going downhill, but I was given a flat white — and the milk was too hot. And if I’m going to spend four bucks on a coffee, the least they can do is get it right. But, you know, #FirstWorldProblem. Continue reading “The real #FirstWorldProblems”

Who are my mother and my brothers?

Jesus says: Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35). Rachel P has been thinking about this since the service a couple weeks ago. She writes:

It brought up so many conflicting thoughts and feelings about family, loyalties, and understanding who Jesus speaks to. I remember setting off to live “by faith” many years ago with my newly wedded partner, and trusting that we would be looked after. We deliberately tried to separate ourselves from the strings of family – strings that urged us to be a bit more sensible and secure in our economic planning, strings that invited us to numerous family gatherings and to partake in “capitalist” traditions which we rejected in the light of Jesus’ call to the poor. The work of Christ was important and we needed to get out there and give love and a message of hope to people who were on the margins.  “Who are my mother and my brothers?” rang loudly in our thoughts. Continue reading “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

Slow reading: May God integrate y’all

In Acts 17:1-10, we learn that Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica and, in three days, convicted ‘some of the Jews’, as well as ‘a large number of God-fearing Gentiles and not a few prominent women’ to the way of Jesus Christ. However, others – both Jew and Gentile – saw the message as a threat, so they stirred up mobs, riots and legal accusations against them. Paul and Silas were hustled out of the city, leaving the brand new yet already persecuted church to fend for itself. The following is a word of encouragement written by Paul to the church—and to us now, especially those of us surprised by the new COVID restrictions. As you read, be aware that every occurrence of the word ‘you’ is plural here. In everything, Paul is addressing the Thessalonians not as individuals, but as a group. How does this affect your understanding of salvation-healing-wholeness? Continue reading “Slow reading: May God integrate y’all”

Be the church you want to belong to

This coming Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. On this day long ago, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven ‘like fire’ and touched a motley group of Jesus followers, simultaneously uniting them and empowering them to communicate with all peoples. As such, Pentecost has traditionally been celebrated as the formation and birthday of the church. But what the church looks like, that is, how people gather as communities of faith, must find new shape in every time and place.

Continue reading “Be the church you want to belong to”

When God seems absent

When God seems absent, we need each other. (Listen.)

Did you hear it? The disciples have been sent into shutdown. For the Risen Jesus orders them not to leave Jerusalem. Instead, they must wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which will fill them with power. Then he moves into the cloud which signifies God’s presence, and disappears from their sight. And so the disciples—men and women both—go back to the room where they’re staying, and devote themselves to prayer. They don’t know what the future holds; they don’t know how long they must wait. But in faith they bunker down to watch and wait, pray and wonder: in all these things, together.

Continue reading “When God seems absent”

4: How gentle the snow #Lent2021

“I will not hide my face from them any longer, for I will have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel,” says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 39:29)

 The way I see it, a mystic takes a peek at God and then does her best to show the rest of us what she saw. She’ll use image-language, not discourse. Giving an image is the giving of gold, the biggest thing she’s got. Mysticism suggests direct union, divine revelation, taking a stab at the Unknown with images, cryptic or plain, sensible or sensory. A mystic casts out for an image in whatever is at her disposal and within reach, like a practiced cook who can concoct a stew from the remaining carrots and a bruised potato, or like a musician improvising with buckets and wooden spoons. She does not circumvent; she hammers a line drive. A mystic is a kid finding a kingdom in ash heap…

Continue reading “4: How gentle the snow #Lent2021”

Slow reading: Many members, one body

This is the third in a four week series inviting you to dwell in the Word, ponder what it is to be the church, and discern if the spirit is calling us to anything new. Reflect alone, with your household, or with a friend. Send any insights to Alison, or bring them to the congregational conversation on 28 February (details here). 

Last week, we heard how the earliest believers were organized into a radically interdependent body; this week goes deeper into this arrangement. As you listen to the text and dwell in the Word, notice any resistance within yourself to the text; notice also what intrigues you, excites you, or makes you want to know more. Continue reading “Slow reading: Many members, one body”

Slow reading: The early church

This is the second in a four week series inviting you to dwell in the Word, ponder what it is to be the church, and discern if the spirit is calling us to anything new. Reflect alone, with your household, or with a friend. Send any insights to Alison, or bring them to the congregational conversation on 28 February (details here). 

In our society, self-sufficiency and independence are usually perceived as virtues; but here we see the earliest believers organized into a radically interdependent body which fostered unity, growth, and freedom. As you listen to the text and dwell in the Word, notice any resistance within yourself to the text; notice also what intrigues you, excites you, or makes you want to know more.

Continue reading “Slow reading: The early church”

Vulnerability grows us in love.

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. 

Continue reading “Vulnerability grows us in love.”

Committing to be together, apart

As we look to our fourth birthday and annual service of recommitment to the faith community, what exactly are we called to do and be? (Listen.)

Next week, it’s Sanctuary’s fourth birthday; and, as we do on our birthday every year, next week we will renew the congregation. Those who are willing will pledge to journey together as the body of Christ for another twelve months, and commit to some simple attitudes and practices which help knit us together. These include gathering to wrestle with life in light of the Scriptures and to pray; to eat, sing, work and play together; to practice hospitality and support the congregation; and to seek justice, reconciliation, wholeness and peace in every sphere of life. Continue reading “Committing to be together, apart”

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