Genesis | Welcoming the stranger, encountering the divine

Emerging from shutdown is an opportunity to create space and time in our lives: but for whom? (Listen.)

So here’s old Abraham, dozing in the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. Sarah’s inside, having a nap. The air is heavy; the afternoon is still. Somewhere, a fly buzzes. And the Lord appears to Abraham and he looks up, and sees three strangers down the road, emerging out of the shimmering haze. Continue reading “Genesis | Welcoming the stranger, encountering the divine”

John | Holy Spirit: Defence lawyer, healer, friend

A testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life, and a promise to all who have been judged and found wanting. (Listen.)

I grew up in a hypercritical atmosphere. I know my mother loved me deeply; nevertheless, I was told every day that nothing I did was good enough. I’d wipe the kitchen bench, and be screamed at for holding the sponge carelessly or for knocking a few crumbs on the floor. I’d sweep, and she’d shout that I was doing it all wrong; when I changed how I held the broom, things only got worse. Once, I dropped a drinking glass; amid sobs and shrieks I was accused of destroying something precious and irreplaceable. Of course, I became a timid, anxious, furtive kind of child; and a cripplingly self-conscious adolescent who was so defensive and so filled with rage that there were times when I could barely breathe. Continue reading “John | Holy Spirit: Defence lawyer, healer, friend”

#24: The faith of friends

And after getting into a boat he crossed the water and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings. (Matthew 9:1-8) Continue reading “#24: The faith of friends”

#21: Don’t change!

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost. (Luke 19:1-10) Continue reading “#21: Don’t change!”

Luke | Prayer, pride and prejudice

It takes deep humility to receive God’s grace. (Listen.)

As Jane Austen didn’t quite say, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune … needs absolutely nothing from God.” I regularly hear people tell me that their sickness and their sorrow is not worth praying about; let God first attend to other people’s need. While this all sounds very noble, as if God is a limited resource which must be carefully rationed, it strikes me that at least two things are wrong with this attitude. Continue reading “Luke | Prayer, pride and prejudice”

Relationships 101

As a pastor, most of my conversations revolve around relationships: having them, not having them, or having them break down. What is becoming clear to me is that most of us have internalised a whole lot of assumptions and expectations around relationships which we think are Biblical. Yet making a claim for a ‘Biblical marriage’ is pretty fraught, for if the Biblical witness teaches us anything about relationships, it is that they are, in fact, culturally bound. Continue reading “Relationships 101”

Forging discomfort into community

This week at Sanctuary we heard the story of the Widow’s Mite: Jesus is at the Temple and observes rich people dropping large sums in the offering box, and a poor widow who puts in the two smallest coins going at the time. Jesus tells His disciples that the Widow has given the most – everything she has – while the Rich have given only a small amount of their surplus. Giving out of your surplus always grabs me with this story. The notion that giving and remaining comfortable isn’t much to write home about – the real magic comes by giving even when it causes discomfort. Continue reading “Forging discomfort into community”

Matthew | Angry judge, or the face of love?

Listen here.

How we hear stories about Jesus depends very much on our image of God. I was thinking about this because, in our conversation last week about the prayers of confession, several people said that they felt, or had been taught, that God was just waiting to judge them. The image of God as a harsh and violent judge is pervasive, and it shapes us. Like the disciples who go with Jesus up the mountain, many of us hold onto this idea, even although it may not be quite right. For this image of God comes, in part, from an older story, a story which predates Jesus. A story that also involves a mountain. Let me tell it to you: Continue reading “Matthew | Angry judge, or the face of love?”

Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune … is in the good books with God. One of the problems with growing up comfortable and in the church is that it is too easy to think this. For we are the good guys: the right sort of people who never do anything seriously wrong. Insulated by our wealth and our privilege, we glance over at all those ghastly people whose lives are a mess, congratulate ourselves for our nice morals and clean living, and assure ourselves and everyone else that we belong in God’s house. For we are not sinners like them. We never rejected God; we belong in the kingdom. Yet, week after week, in God’s house we hear stories which should challenge our assumptions, and this week is no exception. Continue reading “Pride and Prejudice”

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