How Psalm 86 changed a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day

Are we in lockdown? Are we not? Can we have visitors to our home? Are we in the classroom, or are we teaching and learning remotely? Are we worshipping in person or on Zoom? How many people from my house can go to the grocery store today? When the news says ‘Melbourne’, does it include regional Victoria? Can my daughter come home for her sister’s birthday? Can my husband go to his office? If we’re allowed to gather in a group, can we sing?
Continue reading “How Psalm 86 changed a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day”

First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising

The pain is the terror which wakes you in the small hours. It’s the sweat rolling down your brow; it’s desperate prayer beyond words; it’s abandonment by friends who cannot bear to watch. It’s the gut-wrench of betrayal; the hollowness of a false kiss. It’s the scourge of the whip; the agony of thorns; the spear thrust in the side. It’s God-forsakenness, for God is nowhere to be found. This is the unbearable pain of crucifixion; in the suffering, something must die. Continue reading “First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising”

When God seems absent

When God seems absent, we need each other. (Listen.)

Did you hear it? The disciples have been sent into shutdown. For the Risen Jesus orders them not to leave Jerusalem. Instead, they must wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which will fill them with power. Then he moves into the cloud which signifies God’s presence, and disappears from their sight. And so the disciples—men and women both—go back to the room where they’re staying, and devote themselves to prayer. They don’t know what the future holds; they don’t know how long they must wait. But in faith they bunker down to watch and wait, pray and wonder: in all these things, together.

Continue reading “When God seems absent”

Women in the resurrection

I’m on leave this week, so here’s a piece from the archives on the place of women in resurrection life. The reflection was first given to Sanctuary in November 2019, but I believe it speaks strongly to the current cultural moment.

Every now and then, I get a letter addressed to Mrs Paul Holdway; and I reel. Once I’ve stopped reeling, I wonder who on earth this woman is. She sounds like a shadow, a cipher. She’s probably maternal, almost certainly matronly. I’m sure she’s a great supporter of her husband and good at housework. She probably darns other people’s socks, and I’m sure she makes things for cake stalls and fetes. I have no idea what she herself is like, or what she herself is really interested in, but I do know this: There’s something extraordinarily silencing about having my name obliterated in a letter which is ostensibly addressed to me.

Continue reading “Women in the resurrection”

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”

Make a home in God, and God will make a home in you

People have wondered for millennia where God lives. So what’s the answer? An overview of the gospel according to John. (Listen.)

Where does God live? What does God’s house look like? Does God live at church? These are big questions often asked by small people, but I wish more big people would ask them. Because I reckon many big people haven’t really worked out the answers, even though the questions have been floating around for thousands of years. Continue reading “Make a home in God, and God will make a home in you”

Our lives, broken and shared

The Risen Christ is recognised when he takes bread, gives thanks, and shares it; just as when we take our own lives, give thanks, and feed others. (Listen.)

They recognise him when he takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it away. He has always done this. When he was born, he was laid in a feeding trough. When he grew up, he catalysed picnics and ate at sinners’ tables and barbecued fish on the beach for his friends. He took bread and wine and made them special: and those who ate with him knew an abundance and a welcome they had never known before. Continue reading “Our lives, broken and shared”

Even scars become gift in God’s hands

The children of the COVID-19 lockdown will bear scars of this time for the rest of their lives; yet even scars become gift in God’s hands. (Listen.)

This week I read an article which said that the children of the COVID-19 lockdown will bear scars of this time for the rest of their lives. I watch my own children’s social lives shrinking or moving entirely online; I watch them trying to study without the support of being in a classroom with teacher and peers; I watch my youngest dash off her learning tasks, then fall down the rabbit hole of the internet while her older sisters and parents all work. Continue reading “Even scars become gift in God’s hands”

Trusting God’s life will prevail

The Apostle Paul said that if Christ had not been raised, then our faith is in vain. So what is resurrection faith? (Listen.)

Time after time after time it comes to this: Violence. Destruction. Despair. Death. This summer, Australia burned; yet the Victorian Government is logging state forests again. COVID-19 rampages the earth; countries are digging mass graves. Men murder their own wives and children, and are sympathetically described in the media. Powerful religious types support oppressive governments and corporations. Pell has his conviction quashed on a technicality. Millions die from tuberculosis and air pollution every year; vulnerable people are trafficked into slavery; and the world turns a blind eye. Violence, destruction, despair and death: they are never very far away. Continue reading “Trusting God’s life will prevail”

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