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”
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”
This coming Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. On this day long ago, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven ‘like fire’ and touched a motley group of Jesus followers, simultaneously uniting them and empowering them to communicate with all peoples. As such, Pentecost has traditionally been celebrated as the formation and birthday of the church. But what the church looks like, that is, how people gather as communities of faith, must find new shape in every time and place.
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.
The Bible is a dangerous book, full of contradictions and contested images of God. How, then, shall we read? (Listen.)
Last Sunday we baptised a young woman, and then we gave her a dangerous gift. That is, we gave her a book of wisdom and stories, prayers and puzzles, comforts and challenges, contradictions and contested images of God; yes, we gave her a Bible.
I treasure your word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)
I don’t have an excellent memory or attention span, so I never really thought I could remember large portions of Scripture. I was content with picking up verses here and there as I studied, read, or listened to sermons. And I thought it was pretty cool if the pastor happened to be reading through a passage and I could follow along from memory every few verses or so.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth … From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:14, 16)
When I was in training, I encountered many theories about what a pastor is and does. Nouns flew around: shepherd, leader, manager. Verbs, too: healing, guiding, sustaining, reconciling. Sometimes it sounded like I was supposed to be a CEO; other times, a badly trained therapist; still other times, a salesperson for the gospel. I was told to work out where I fit in the APEST model—apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd-pastor or teacher—and was told, simultaneously, that the church has no need for pastors or teachers these days. I explored Biblical metaphors—struggling Jacob, raging Jonah, and Simon’s mother-in-law, whose healing led to ministry—but the powers that be told me these reflections were irrelevant, even faintly ridiculous.
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)
While I grew up enjoying diversity, I did not grow up knowing much about my heritage—and therefore I didn’t celebrate it. On one side of my family, the older generations encouraged us to get ‘Americanized,’ in hopes of better opportunities. To them, americanization equalled opportunity. For them, dreams were things that often went unrealized, for opportunities were not afforded to those from a country where poverty was as common as brown eyes and brown skin…
This is the third 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).
Last week, we heard how the earliest believers were organized into a radically interdependent body; this week goes deeper into this arrangement. As you listen to the text and dwell in the Word, notice any resistance within yourself to the text; notice also what intrigues you, excites you, or makes you want to know more. Continue reading “Slow reading: Many members, one body”
This is the second 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).
In our society, self-sufficiency and independence are usually perceived as virtues; but here we see the earliest believers organized into a radically interdependent body which fostered unity, growth, and freedom. As you listen to the text and dwell in the Word, notice any resistance within yourself to the text; notice also what intrigues you, excites you, or makes you want to know more.