Farewell, Elephant: A Jewish man whose friendship was a gift to this Baptist pastor

You may not have known him, but last week Sanctuary lost one of its ‘people of peace’: Jon Yaakov Gorr, known to many as Elephant. He was killed while riding his beloved bicycle in Allansford, and perhaps you have driven past him on his regular ride down Hopkins Point Road into Warrnambool. Continue reading “Farewell, Elephant: A Jewish man whose friendship was a gift to this Baptist pastor”

25: Do good #Lent2021

Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:27-31)

There’s a story that I absolutely love about Thurman, that he tells about his grandmother — that his grandmother owned some land, and there was a white woman who was adjacent to the land and did not like the fact that this Black woman owned land. And so she decided he was gonna get back at Thurman’s grandmother and went to her chicken coop and got all the manure and dumped it on her land and upon her tomatoes and her greens and everything she was growing, to destroy it. But his grandmother, when she realized there was all this manure [that] just had destroyed everything, she would get up in the morning and take the manure and just mix it in with the soil as fertilizer. And so the woman would dump at night, and Thurman’s grandmother would get up in the morning and turn it over and mix it.

Continue reading “25: Do good #Lent2021”

7: Pray and love #Lent2021

Jesus says, “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:46-48, MSG)

It felt a bit strange finishing my PhD and becoming a New Testament scholar at the age of 50. I am a ‘young scholar’ in terms of my research experience. Yet I am about 10 to 20 years older than many (though not all) of my peers. I have done many different things in my life. As a child, I was a factory worker in Asia. After university, I worked as an IT professional in Australia for several years. At the age of 30, I started my first theological degree. Within a couple of years I became a pastor in a big church, and was ordained three years later. After that, I went back to IT for a few years while completing my MPhil. Then I worked in the aid and development sector for almost seven years. Soon after that I completed my doctoral thesis. I have been an adjunct lecturer at several theological colleges since 2001, and my first academic book was published in 2015.

Continue reading “7: Pray and love #Lent2021”

Ten words, three strategies, and a never-ending flow of life

God gives the gift of freedom and Ten Words – three strategies – to help us resist the lies of empire. (Listen.)

Just imagine: You have been set free. Free from unreasonable expectations, casual contracts, and ever-increasing KPI’s. Free from the busywork of middle management and trivializing performance reviews. Free from the gnawing feeling that, no matter how many hours you put in, you will never know enough or do enough or be enough or have enough. Free from seeking other people’s approval; free from the need to be seen as helpful, powerful, successful, special, right, reliable, calm, happy or wise. Continue reading “Ten words, three strategies, and a never-ending flow of life”

#32: Slow work

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, satisfy your needs in parched places, make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, a spring of water, waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58:6-12) Continue reading “#32: Slow work”

Walking the neighbourhood

So, walking the neighbourhood. It’s something many of us do every day: but we can add a layer and turn our walks into an opportunities for reflective prayer. This way of praying is not about praying for the neighbourhood, although you can certainly do that. Instead, it is about ‘reading’ the neighbourhood, and seeking the presence of Christ there. For “the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, MSG); and so, just as the Word is present in the Scriptures and speaks through them, so too is the Word present in the neighbourhood and, to those with open hearts, speaks through the neighbourhood also. Continue reading “Walking the neighbourhood”

Nothing like a good yarn

Dear friend,

On Saturday 19 January at 7pm, we will hold our first yarn: an evening for people to gather and tell stories. The theme is epiphany: a moment when you realised something deep and true about yourself or the world. More about the event is here; guidelines for storytellers are here. But what’s the big idea behind it? Well, we are story people. The stories we tell and the stories we inhabit create deep patterns in our minds, shaping how we see the world, each other and ourselves. Yet we are surrounded by untrue stories: the story that there is never enough to go round (dismantled here); the story that suffering is a cosmic or divine punishment (dismissed here); the story that some groups of people threaten the smooth workings of our society (deconstructed here); the story that wealth is a sign of God’s favour (demolished here); and many others. Continue reading “Nothing like a good yarn”

One Rule to Ring Them All

Listen here.

Tonight we reflect on a story in the gospel of Mark, when a man with a withered hand reaches out to Jesus and is healed. Yet it’s the Sabbath, and so the Pharisees go ballistic. But first … another story. A Catholic woman I know grew up in St Kilda, with a synagogue at the end of her street. One Friday night, when the Sabbath was already underway, there was a knock at the door. Her parents were sitting around in their dressing gowns, reading, but her mother got up, and answered the door anyway. There she found a few of their neighbours, Orthodox Jewish men. “The lights are out in the synagogue!” they said. “We can’t turn them on [it was something they were forbidden to do on the Sabbath] … so would you mind coming and switching them on?”  Continue reading “One Rule to Ring Them All”

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