Cut off from the church? Here’s good news for you (and a challenge to the church)

The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch points to a faith which is radically accepting and inclusive. (Listen.)

The Ethiopian eunuch is cut off in every way. A precious part of him has been sliced off, and this loss defines him: for we do not even know his name. Instead, we only know that he’s a eunuch. And as a eunuch, he has been cut off from having children, and from establishing a family line.

Continue reading “Cut off from the church? Here’s good news for you (and a challenge to the church)”

The gift of belonging

Sanctuary’s taking a summer break, but here’s a little something reflecting on the gift of belonging: a very significant gift we give children in our atomized society.

As a modern Westerner, I find it hard not to imagine Mary, Joseph and Jesus in a little bubble of aloneness. I see Mary and Joseph wending their way to Bethlehem, and forget they would have been travelling in a group. I see Mary giving birth alone in a stable, when she was almost certainly in a crowded family home giving birth in the warmest, safest, most normal place: near the radiant heat of the animals. I see the couple raising Jesus in a one-child nuclear family unit, when they would have lived in a family compound with aunties, uncles and cousins, and Jesus’ brothers and sisters. As I have learned from my theological studies, and from Middle Eastern friends and neighbours, ‘alone’ is a rather Western concept. It certainly wasn’t a way of life in first century Palestine.

Continue reading “The gift of belonging”

LGBTI+? You are welcome here

Last week, our brother Joel Rothman had an article published in ABC Religion & Ethics. He shows how the Bible’s descriptions of homosexuality do not match lived experience; reminds us that the church has changed its position on several significant issues of morality and Christian faithfulness; and calls us to remedy the great suffering caused by the church’s historic condemnation of LGBTQI+ people. You can read his article here. Continue reading “LGBTI+? You are welcome here”

Winnowing out only violence, or the move from John to Jesus

Listen here.

Some years back, I saw a woman in a carpark smacking her child. And as she smacked, she yelled, “WE DO NOT HIT IN THIS FAMILY! WE LOVE!” It reminded me of those ostensibly Biblical parenting models, in which cool and collected parents maintain discipline by spanking their naughty children—and then lovingly use the moment as a teaching opportunity. Because the people being hit are children, and because our society doesn’t rate children’s experiences very highly, we adults can miss the contradiction here. Yet if we substitute ‘women’ for ‘children’, perhaps things become clearer: even if it’s ‘just a smack’, there is a mixed message going on, to say the least. Continue reading “Winnowing out only violence, or the move from John to Jesus”

Church without Boundaries

Listen here.

Is he a racist, or is he the redeemer? Did Jesus come to reinforce ethnic and religious boundaries, or to transcend them? We have just heard a story from the gospel according to Mark, in which Jesus calls a Syro-Phoenician woman a dog. She pushes back; and he praises her faith and heals her daughter. Whether he was a racist who changed his outlook in response to her sharp wit, or whether he was feeding her a line to show up the racism of his disciples, we’ll never really know. But we do know this: The story lies between two other stories, two occasions when Jesus heals and feeds thousands of people. Continue reading “Church without Boundaries”

State of the Union

This coming Sunday, we will re-form our congregation. After the Apostles Creed, those who are willing will be invited to stand and make a commitment to one another to journey together for the next twelve months. All are welcome: young or old, recent arrival or long-term participant, baptised or unbaptised, strong in faith or full of doubt. For we gather around Jesus Christ’s own table, and he invites everybody: no distinctions, no exceptions, no qualifying requirements. All you need to throw in your lot with us is a willingness to travel with us, and a readiness to give the elements of the commitment a red hot go, as we seek to live into God’s future together.  Continue reading “State of the Union”

Eating Out-of-Bounds: The Culture of God

Listen here.

Tonight we have a great story about food: and it makes me wonder: Who do you eat with? But first, the story. As a Jewish man, Peter will not eat certain foods; but in a vision God shows him all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds, and tells him to kill and eat. And as prawn-cracker-crunching pork-chop-eating Gentile followers of Jesus, it’s easy for us to roll our eyes and say, Well, duh!! But we can only say “duh!” because we are beneficiaries of Peter’s response to this vision. For while he is still pondering what he has seen, he is invited to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. On the basis of the vision, Peter the Jew accepts. Continue reading “Eating Out-of-Bounds: The Culture of God”

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