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”

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 “Where God’s word comes”

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 “A tender shoot of love and justice”

Jeremiah | Lament in a time of climate emergency

According to Jeremiah 12, injustice leads to land degradation and species loss. In an era of anthropogenic climate change, these words have new resonance and show us how to lament. (Listen.)

How long, O Lord, will the land mourn? How long will degraded topsoil blow away and riverbeds crack for lack of water? How many millions of frogs must die? How many fish? How many bees? How long will the evangelical industrial complex wield your name like a weapon, while passing laws and investing in industries which destroy ecosystems? How many bushfires, how many floods? How many environmental defenders must be murdered? Where is your justice, O Lord? How long must we wait? Continue reading “Jeremiah | Lament in a time of climate emergency”

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”

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

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