Esther, empire and the hiddenness of God

Esther shows that when insecure fools are in charge, even the most disempowered person may trigger a radical policy reversal. (Listen.)

Esther is not a love story; it’s a story about powerful men. Esther is not a love story; it’s a story of faithfulness and courage. Esther is not a love story; it’s a story about the hiddenness of God. And yet ‘love story’, even ‘beauty pageant’, is the interpretation of Esther that many of us were taught. So today, we’re going to blow that reading out of the water: then we’ll look more closely at what it’s really about. Continue reading “Esther, empire and the hiddenness of God”

Let’s make a splash!

Sanctuary’s taking a summer break, but here’s a little something from the archives on baptism. Note: I’m reflecting on Luke’s account (not Mark’s). (Listen.)

Baptism. It’s something John offered, and something Jesus underwent, and something his disciples are told to do. It’s got something to do with water and washing and sin: but what is it, actually? What are we doing, what are we declaring, who are we becoming when we are baptised? What does it all mean? Tonight’s story offers a few clues, but to explore the depths, we’ll first need to zoom out a little. Continue reading “Let’s make a splash!”

Ten words, three strategies, and a never-ending flow of life

God gives the gift of freedom and Ten Words – three strategies – to help us resist the lies of empire. (Listen.)

Just imagine: You have been set free. Free from unreasonable expectations, casual contracts, and ever-increasing KPI’s. Free from the busywork of middle management and trivializing performance reviews. Free from the gnawing feeling that, no matter how many hours you put in, you will never know enough or do enough or be enough or have enough. Free from seeking other people’s approval; free from the need to be seen as helpful, powerful, successful, special, right, reliable, calm, happy or wise. Continue reading “Ten words, three strategies, and a never-ending flow of life”

Caught between two parades

There were, and always will be, two parades: one embodying the power of empire, the other, vulnerability and self-sacrifice. (Listen.)

There were two parades. The first poured in through the west gate. The governor was visiting from his coastal palace at Caesarea Maritima. The cavalry rode before him: armed men on horseback, helmets gleaming. Foot soldiers marched in strict formation, leather armour creaking. Statues of golden eagles glinted atop long poles. Swords rattled; bridles clanked; trumpets blared; drums beat. The governor himself was borne by a great stallion, glossy, muscular, powerful. The governor’s head was held high, his eyes averted from the mass of humanity in the streets. Continue reading “Caught between two parades”

We need to talk about hell

Hell is the location of human violence, not God’s; “indeed, it did not even enter my mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31) (Listen.)

Some of us grew up with threats of hell, that burning lake of fire and brimstone into which the sinful will be cast at death to their everlasting fiery torment. Given how regularly hell comes up in many a church’s preaching and in popular culture, and given how graphically it is described, you might wonder why I never mention it. Am I avoiding all the nasty bits of the Bible? Well, no—but I think it’s time we had that little chat: we need to talk about hell. Continue reading “We need to talk about hell”

Group Reflection: Maybe it’s a good thing to be left behind

There is a popular idea that, in the end times, God will whisk the ‘righteous’ people away and those left behind will suffer. As young teens, many of us were shown terrifying movies which showed in great detail what being left behind might look like. The movies gave some of us terrible nightmares; and some of us have friends who were turned away from Jesus forever as a result. These days, there is an extemely popular series of novels which has pretty much the same effect. Continue reading “Group Reflection: Maybe it’s a good thing to be left behind”

Let’s Make a Splash!

Listen here.

Baptism. It’s something John offered, and something Jesus underwent, and something his disciples are told to do. It’s got something to do with water and washing and sin: but what is it, actually? What are we doing, what are we declaring, who are we becoming when we are baptised? What does it all mean? Tonight’s story offers a few clues, but to explore the depths, we’ll first need to zoom out a little. Continue reading “Let’s Make a Splash!”

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