Matthew | Like an arsonist

John the Baptizer has strong words for religious leaders; but, in the kingdom of heaven, even the most vulnerable person need not be afraid. (Listen.)

Sin. For many of us it’s a dirty word. Because many of us are recovering Christians. We are recovering from churches which preached judgement and condemnation, triggering fear and shame. We are recovering from feeling manipulated; we are recovering from the threat of hell; we are recovering from bad theology. We are recovering from mincing moralism which taught us to be afraid of our own desires. We are recovering from abusive shepherds and church leaders who stole our innocence away. We are recovering from all the ways the word ‘sin’ has been wielded like a weapon, to make us compliant and afraid. And yet, we are here. Continue reading “Matthew | Like an arsonist”

Isaiah | Slow reading | The oil of gladness

Last night we marked All Saints with a quiet gathering in the hall. We remembered some special folk, lit a few candles, said a few prayers, and savoured a sweet supper together. Why? Because many of us are grieving the loss of loved ones this year, and God promises comfort to those who grieve. This does not mean that the grief is negated or vanishes, simply that we have companions in our sadness, that there are moments of gladness, and that we can be assured that death does not have the last word. Continue reading “Isaiah | Slow reading | The oil of gladness”

Hosea | Gomer, the face of God

God is not seen in a violent man, but in a woman known for her love. (Listen.)

Like so many women, I know what it is to receive unwanted attention and even assault. The comments about my breasts in primary school and, later, the wolf whistles; the propositions. The unsought gawkings and strokings and gropings. The encounters where consent was murky at best. And given what so many of my sisters have experienced, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Continue reading “Hosea | Gomer, the face of God”

Isaiah | The heavenly banquet

ELLIOTT WRITES: Dear Alison, Mum says that God said in heaven there won’t be any sadness or crying. But I know lots of people don’t believe in heaven and don’t want to go there. Some of my friends and their families don’t want to believe in God or heaven. I think I will miss them in heaven so I will be sad – I don’t think God will make clones of them. Can you explain this to me? I would like it in an email. From Elliott. Continue reading “Isaiah | The heavenly banquet”

Isaiah | Awe, wonder and the threat of love

An encounter with God means an encounter with love: and this can be truly terrifying. (Listen.)

Why are you at worship today? If I were to ask most of you, you’d say something like, “I want to be closer to God” or “I hope to experience God’s presence.” These are good and right reasons to be here. They are what we always hope for, and making space for such an encounter is exactly what I try to do. But it must be said: I have never yet curated a service where people have fallen flat on their faces in awe, terror and wonder at the devastating presence of the Living God. Nor have I heard anyone shriek, “Get away from me, Lord, for I am sinful!”, or say they think they’ll die in God’s presence. And I’m not sure any of us here want these reactions: yet in Biblical accounts, such responses are normal. Continue reading “Isaiah | Awe, wonder and the threat of love”

Jeremiah | The gift of God’s words in a world turned upside down

Like Jeremiah, we are all given God’s words to comfort, challenge and console. A reflection for back-to-school Sunday. (Listen.)

Over the last two years, our world has been turned upside down. We used to meet inside the building for church, but last week we were on Zoom; and this week here we, worshipping in the garden. We used to leave the house for school and work; but during the many months of lockdowns, most of us learned to work and study from home. Continue reading “Jeremiah | The gift of God’s words in a world turned upside down”

Slow reading: The prophet Amos and 26 January

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”

Mary: Prophetic, intelligent, unafraid

Portrayals of Mary tend to the aristocratic, the submissive, the vapid; but the gospel reveals an intelligent young woman who stands in the prophetic tradition. (Listen.)

When you think of Mary, how do you imagine her? I don’t know about you, but I was raised in the Western artistic tradition. When I think of Mary, the first thing that usually comes to mind are images from the Italian Renaissance. That is, I see an elegant, pale woman in a royal blue dress. Continue reading “Mary: Prophetic, intelligent, unafraid”

Luke | Where God’s word comes

God’s word comes the one who forsakes privilege, lives simply, works for justice … and listens. (Listen.)

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I lived in Washington, DC. We went to a church which was once Harry Truman’s, then Jimmy Carter’s; and while we were there the Clintons came a couple times. Members included presidential advisors, scientists, and journalists; officers in the military and CIA staff; senior bureaucrats and retired diplomats; professors, stockbrokers, and a governor of the Federal Reserve. A lot of power was concentrated at that church, and there were some incredibly committed and godly people. Continue reading “Luke | Where God’s word comes”

Jeremiah & Isaiah | A tender shoot of love and justice

Jesus embodies ancient hopes for justice, nonviolence, and peace between all peoples. As people grafted into this righteous branch, we must embody these qualities, too. (Listen.)

So it’s Advent: a paradoxical time-slip in which we look forward to the coming of the one who was born, and lived, and died, and was raised, and lives among us now. It’s a time of anticipating more than ever God’s kingdom come. It’s a time of hopeful expectation of a world turned rightside up, a world where love and justice reign, and vulnerable people are raised up, and the arrogant are cast down. Continue reading “Jeremiah & Isaiah | A tender shoot of love and justice”

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