Five loaves, two fishes and a pocketful of prayers make a church

God provides abundance where people see scarcity, delights in gathering people to feed them, and comes up with endlessly surprising ways to do so—even during lockdown. (Listen.)

Here we are in lockdown again, and life is feeling small. We don’t see enough people; we don’t share enough meals; we don’t get enough exercise; the walls are beginning to close in. Even when lockdown eases, we know from previous experience that it will take time and energy to reengage with the world. We’ll have new restrictions to navigate and new fears to manage. And after all these months of infrequent socialising, some of us will decide that it’s all too hard; we’ll choose to stay home. Continue reading “Five loaves, two fishes and a pocketful of prayers make a church”

The strongest one

Jesus exorcises voices of family, church and society. A metaphorical mix up of demons, dwellings, and healing. Note: Beelzebul is the demon king, and also the demon of the dwelling place. (Listen.)

When I first introduced the man who was to become my husband to my extended family, not one but two different people said to me, “Wow! We never thought you’d meet anyone, let alone a Collins Street lawyer.” Never mind that my husband’s office was on Queen Street; the message was clear. All my life I’d been told by family, church and society that no man wanted an outspoken wife. I was insightful, articulate, prophetic, forceful: great qualities in a man or, perhaps, a celibate single professional woman. But if I wanted to ‘catch’ a good husband, I would need to dumb down and shut up, because the person God had made me to be was unattractive and unlovable, and would make a dreadful wife and mother. Continue reading “The strongest one”

Slow reading: The witness of women

Mark’s account of the resurrection is very odd, ending in silence, fear and a great big question mark: for the last word of the gospel account is ‘because …’ Most English translations are so uncomfortable with this ending that they drag the ‘because’ backwards, using it to explain the women’s behaviour. Thus we often read, ‘They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’ This is not Mark’s wording. A more accurate translation ends with ‘They said nothing to anyone. They were afraid, because …’ – inviting you, the reader, to enter into the story, and wrestle with the question and the sense of unknowing. With current events in mind, I invite you to dwell on the story, the women, the fear, and the dangling question, as you slowly and prayerfully read and wonder how it continues to speak into our world today. Continue reading “Slow reading: The witness of women”

The judgement is upon us now

The judgement of Matthew 25 is not about individuals, hell or the afterlife; but nations, consequences and this life now. (Listen.)

Are you afraid of God’s judgement? Jesus says he will send some into eternal fire and punishment, and others into eternal life; and so this story has often been used to create fear in people. Fear of being rejected by God. Fear of never-ending punishment. Fear of a fiery hell. But I’m here to unpack Jesus’ teaching, because this interpretation is highly problematic. So still your anxious heart as we look at who or what is being judged and what the judgement looks like, for we will discover a different reading which takes away fear and beckons us into life.

Continue reading “The judgement is upon us now”

The Welcoming Prayer

So shutdown continues, and I keep hearing people trying *not* to say how bad they feel about it. We know it could be so much worse: who are we to feel terrible about being isolated, cooped up, or driven insane by our own beloved children? And what I notice is how much energy and effort it takes to suppress what we are feeling. Today, then, I encourage you to instead use that energy to feel and then let go of your strong emotions, using the pattern of The Welcoming Prayer. There are four simple stages. Continue reading “The Welcoming Prayer”

Slow reading: Paralysis

I’m finding it difficult to climb out of bed in the morning. A global pandemic, the monotony of shutdown, the changes to family, work and congregational life, climate catastrophe: unsurprisingly, I find the state of the world overwhelming. I just want to lie in bed and do nothing; to ignore kids, work, climate and let the world hurtle its way to destruction. There are days when I feel nearly paralyzed by grief and fear. Continue reading “Slow reading: Paralysis”

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”

Slow reading: Out of my mind with fear.

Our four-week-series of reflecting on church together has been postponed while we give ourselves time to adapt to the next phase of COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, here’s an opportunity for slow reading.

Some days are better than others: but this was not one of them. I woke up with my heart pounding, intensely aware of my anxiety. I felt it, named it, and prayed about it, then swung my legs out of bed and began my morning routine. Anxiously, I drank some water; anxiously, I did a workout; anxiously, I had a long hot shower … and still my heart pounded with fear. Muttering to myself that it would be a stupid waste of time while I was in this state, nevertheless I sat down to my daily practice: slow reading Scripture then sitting in silence, imagining myself in the Scripture and looking always towards God. Continue reading “Slow reading: Out of my mind with fear.”

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”

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