Slow reading: In the vale of death’s shadow

Yesterday there were two funerals as two beloved young people, both killed in the same car crash, were farewelled in this region. I could pile on words of comfort and assurance. I could remind you that those who grieve are blessed; I could assure you that nothing can separate us from God’s love; I could recall the peace which surpasses all understanding, and which so many of us experience precisely at these moments of extreme need. But this week, I don’t think we need more words, just the balm of an old favourite. So let us rest in Psalm 23, and let the good shepherd minister to us all. Continue reading “Slow reading: In the vale of death’s shadow”

Becoming prisoners of hope

In this current moment, despair feels natural: but we are only partway through a story, and the ending has not yet been written. (Listen.)

Young Joseph had it all. He was his father’s favourite, a spoiled brat. He was given a beautiful coat with long sleeves: because no one expected him to do any real work, anything which required him to roll his sleeves up. He had vivid dreams which showed he would one day be top of the heap, and he had God-given interpretive gifts. He was on the wide road to success, power, affirmation, acclaim. Continue reading “Becoming prisoners of hope”

Neither death nor grief nor anything else can separate us from God’s love

We are in a time of tremendous grief and loss; yet we are assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. (Listen.)

I can’t count the losses. Sure, nobody I know has died; but I’ve seen my beloved father in the flesh only once in six months. Most of my friends I haven’t seen at all. My children’s schooling has been interrupted; activities are on hold; hanging out with their friends feels fraught. My oldest daughter is finishing high school, and nobody knows what the next year holds. Will there be work? Can she live in college? Will university lectures be face-to-face, or simply online? Continue reading “Neither death nor grief nor anything else can separate us from God’s love”

Trusting God’s life will prevail

The Apostle Paul said that if Christ had not been raised, then our faith is in vain. So what is resurrection faith? (Listen.)

Time after time after time it comes to this: Violence. Destruction. Despair. Death. This summer, Australia burned; yet the Victorian Government is logging state forests again. COVID-19 rampages the earth; countries are digging mass graves. Men murder their own wives and children, and are sympathetically described in the media. Powerful religious types support oppressive governments and corporations. Pell has his conviction quashed on a technicality. Millions die from tuberculosis and air pollution every year; vulnerable people are trafficked into slavery; and the world turns a blind eye. Violence, destruction, despair and death: they are never very far away. Continue reading “Trusting God’s life will prevail”

#40: Resurrection life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world. (John 11:17-27) Continue reading “#40: Resurrection life”

#39: Cloud of witnesses

This passage follows on from a long list of ancestors in the faith: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart … Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:1-3, 12-13) Continue reading “#39: Cloud of witnesses”

#35: Resist false teachings

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have brought no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!’ Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12) (You may recall that Jesus elsewhere criticises the Pharisees for their insistence on ritual purity and a moralistic legalism, all the while maintaining a hardness of heart.)  Continue reading “#35: Resist false teachings”

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