Biblical wisdom, cultural knowledge, language and healing

Biblical wisdom leads to understanding the particularities of place and the interconnectedness of all things, and is a source of hope for the healing of the earth. (Listen.)

Note: This reflection is by a white Second Nations person speaking with a white Second Nations congregation, with all the limitations this entails. Yet it seems to us better to fumble our way towards greater understanding than to give up altogether.

Acorn. Dandelion. Fern. Heron. Ivy. Kingfisher. Nectar. Willow. These are but some of the words which were cut from a revised edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary a few years ago. A dictionary has only so much space, and the editors decided these words were irrelevant to the modern child. In their place, they added other words: attachment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee. Continue reading “Biblical wisdom, cultural knowledge, language and healing”

The bitch slaps back

Yes, Jesus calls a woman a dog. It’s not his finest moment. But the bitch slaps back: and he listens, and learns, and grows. (Listen.)

‘Bitch.’ It’s a vicious taunt. Every time I hear it, I’m left enraged, gutted, and gasping, which is exactly what the taunter wants. It’s meant to silence: and mostly, it works. It tells me that the speaker doesn’t see me as fully human. There seems no point in continuing the relationship: so I shut my mouth, and move away. Continue reading “The bitch slaps back”

How Psalm 86 changed a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day

Are we in lockdown? Are we not? Can we have visitors to our home? Are we in the classroom, or are we teaching and learning remotely? Are we worshipping in person or on Zoom? How many people from my house can go to the grocery store today? When the news says ‘Melbourne’, does it include regional Victoria? Can my daughter come home for her sister’s birthday? Can my husband go to his office? If we’re allowed to gather in a group, can we sing?
Continue reading “How Psalm 86 changed a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day”

First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising

The pain is the terror which wakes you in the small hours. It’s the sweat rolling down your brow; it’s desperate prayer beyond words; it’s abandonment by friends who cannot bear to watch. It’s the gut-wrench of betrayal; the hollowness of a false kiss. It’s the scourge of the whip; the agony of thorns; the spear thrust in the side. It’s God-forsakenness, for God is nowhere to be found. This is the unbearable pain of crucifixion; in the suffering, something must die. Continue reading “First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising”

Chronic pain changes everything. So does chronic love

After a recent service, members of the congregation had a long conversation about chronic pain, sharing resources, techniques and encouragement. In response, I invited people to reflect on the intersection of faith and pain in their lives. Here is Ollie’s story. Thanks, Ollie!

I only had a short time of suffering chronic pain. A few years ago, when I went part time at work and became primary carer part time, I would get these episodes where my ankle would become extremely painful for a few hours at a time. At the start it would just go away after a while or with mild medication. Continue reading “Chronic pain changes everything. So does chronic love”

Joining the sacred dance

The dance of the liturgy heals and transforms us: but to receive its gifts, we must participate. (Listen.)

One of my happiest childhood memories were church barn dances. Once or twice a year on a Saturday night, we’d gather in the hall with a dance caller and bush band; and off we’d go with a do-se-do and twirl your partner! Adults, teens and children stepped and galloped, wove and spun, stumbling and laughing and moving down the line. Towering blokes swung little kids around; teenagers dominated the Nutbush; and the oldest folk clapped along from the sidelines. Some of us were wonderful dancers; most of us were not: but the dance held us all. Continue reading “Joining the sacred dance”

Menstruation, miscarriage, and the multitude robed in white

Bleeding bodies and suffering selves are all gathered up in Christ. (Listen.)

Like me, my mother was an ordained Baptist minister; but unlike me, she had endometriosis. Among other things, this meant that her menstrual periods were excruciatingly painful, and came upon her without warning, in great floods. And so my childhood is studded with high stress memories of her period suddenly starting while we were out. There’d be an intake of breath, then a quick hissed exchange between my parents, then a frantic search for a public toilet before disaster struck. Continue reading “Menstruation, miscarriage, and the multitude robed in white”

Slow reading: Your healing shall spring up quickly

Israel is engaging in spiritual practices, but God isn’t responding and Israel wants to know the reason why. We live in an age when spirituality has been privatised and turned into a marketable commodity; where fasting is about slimming and ‘wellness’; where subscription-based meditation apps are best-sellers; where spiritual practitioners push products on goop; where people spend thousands on spiritual retreats; yet anxiety, depression, addiction and autoimmune diseases run rampant. To those wondering, ‘Why isn’t God listening? Why aren’t we being healed?’, God’s answer through the prophet Isaiah is scorching–and there’s not a scented candle in sight. Continue reading “Slow reading: Your healing shall spring up quickly”

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: 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”

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