Today is 26 January. It’s a day of formal ceremonies and concerts; festivities and fireworks; citizenship oaths and wattle seedlings; parades and parties; lamb on the barbie—and even WA is invited! Workplaces will be closed, pubs will be full, and our favourite swimming hole will be a sea of flags printed on towels, bikinis and stubbie holders, as people celebrate the construct we call Australia. Continue reading “Slow reading: The prophet Amos and 26 January”
Slow reading: Consider the birds
A few weeks ago, after a hot afternoon gardening, I turned on the sprinkler then collapsed in the shade. Within minutes six New Holland honeyeaters came to drink and bathe. They flitted in and out between the sprinkler spray and the Tree everlasting we planted just over a year ago, and which is now thriving. I considered that these birds neither strive nor toil, yet all their needs are being met, right down to the punk feather haircut which always makes me grin. Continue reading “Slow reading: Consider the birds”
Proverbs | Consider the insects
When we moved from inner city Melbourne to regional Victoria, we really noticed the absence of insects. Our garden in Brunswick was dancing with butterflies most of the year, and every shovelful of dirt brought up a mass of worms. Here, there are almost no butterflies and worms are a scarcity. So I’ve planted butterfly-attractors and caterpillar foods, and slowly improved the soil: and I am gradually seeing life return. Still, the absence is striking. Continue reading “Proverbs | Consider the insects”
Psalms | In the vale of death’s shadow
Yesterday there were two funerals as two beloved young people, both killed in the same car crash, were farewelled in this region. I could pile on words of comfort and assurance. I could remind you that those who grieve are blessed; I could assure you that nothing can separate us from God’s love; I could recall the peace which surpasses all understanding, and which so many of us experience precisely at these moments of extreme need. But this week, I don’t think we need more words, just the balm of an old favourite. So let us rest in Psalm 23, and let the good shepherd minister to us all. Continue reading “Psalms | In the vale of death’s shadow”
Isaiah | 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 “Isaiah | Your healing shall spring up quickly”
Group reflection: From darkness to God’s peace
Another snap shutdown, a house blessing cancelled, a quick pivot to an online service, and things are feeling a bit grim. So we came to Jesus and sat with the story of Nicodemus. What follows are notes from our conversation about the darkness which surrounds us, as well as the spiritual practices which are helping us experience God’s peace. Continue reading “Group reflection: From darkness to God’s peace”
Slow reading: Do you want to be healed?
Of course everyone wants to be made well. It’s a no-brainer. Or … is it? Because healing means loss. It means letting go of dependency, taking up responsibility, and walking into a new future: a future often studded with conflict. As you listen to this story and dwell in the Word, you are invited to consider your own attitude to being made well. But first, imagine yourself in the beginning place: lying on a mat by a pool. You are comfortably dozing, and the sun is dancing across your eyelids … Continue reading “Slow reading: Do you want to be healed?”
This Sunday we will be baptizing one of our young people into the church and, like so many churches do at a baptism, we will present her with a Bible. However, a Bible is a big scary object, full of millions of words and some very alarming stories. How, then, shall we encourage our newly baptized member to keep opening it up? How shall we encourage her to keep bringing her questions, fears and dreamings to this book? How shall we point to the Word of Life we have found in its pages, when there are so many words and so many pages to navigate?
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”
Slow reading: Seeking the mind of Christ
This is the final in a four week series inviting you to dwell in the Word, ponder what it is to be the church, and discern if the spirit is calling us to anything new. Reflect alone, with your household, or with a friend. Send any insights to Alison, or bring them to the congregational conversation on 28 February (details here).
From a young age, we are encouraged to know our own mind and push our own opinion, and winning an argument is often seen as more important than loving. According to the Apostle Paul, however, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:1b-3). He was writing in a context where people were making technically reasonable arguments, yet their conclusions were hurting others; and he argued that even the best theological reasoning meant nothing unless it led to love.