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”

Prayer | Into the garden

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43) 

It’s hard to read the Bible and not become a gardener: because gardens are central to our story. We begin in Genesis, in a beautiful place of innocence, life, creativity and newness. God walks the garden in the cool of the evening, crushing thyme between her fingertips and enjoying the heightened scent. Birds are settling into their roosts for the night; small sounds travel on the evening air; silvery leaves and white flowers seem to glow. Continue reading “Prayer | Into the garden”

Luke | Not even #humble

Competitive faithfulness has no place in God’s kingdom; instead, it’s all about love. (Listen.)

So the minister and the deacon are standing at the front of the church, praying. In a big, resonant voice the minister says, ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ In a clear, ringing voice the deacon says, ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Then they hear a muffled sound coming from the back of the building. They turn to see the cleaner, head bowed, kneeling, beating his breast and saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ The minister turns to the deacon and says, ‘Look who’s calling himself a sinner!’ Continue reading “Luke | Not even #humble”

Jeremiah | Our fickleness, God’s faithfulness

In our fickleness and faithlessness, God insists on renewing the relationship. (Listen.)

Who among us has never broken covenant? Who among us has been always and entirely faithful in thought, word and deed to family, to friend, to spouse, and to God? Who among us has kept every single aspect of our marriage vows, our baptismal vows, or our other significant promises? Who among us has meticulously observed all Ten Commandments? Who has always honoured the Sabbath, setting aside a whole day every week for neither working nor shopping, but only for worship, rest and play? Who among us has not once been jealous of our neighbour’s house or garden or car or life? Anyone? Continue reading “Jeremiah | Our fickleness, God’s faithfulness”

Luke | Martha Made Whole

Inviting Christ into your dwelling means being renovated from the inside out. (Listen, or watch on YouTube.)

A newcomer was sitting with a circle of women as they reflected on the sermon after the service. Suddenly she said, ‘Wow! I’ve never seen THAT before!’ I asked her what she noticed. She gestured to the men heating food and setting the table for our common meal. ‘Everywhere else, men talk and women serve,’ she said. ‘Not here,’ I replied. ‘Here, people take turns. And if you stay for the meal, you might see men doing the dishes afterwards!’ Continue reading “Luke | Martha Made Whole”

Revelation | God’s final ‘Yes!’

The invitations to enter God’s holy city just keep on coming. (Listen.)

Awhile back, I was talking to someone who has experienced a lot of violence in her life. To add insult to injury, she has been told that unless she gives her life to Jesus, she will suffer further punishment when she dies. ‘I can’t believe in a god who makes me suffer like this,’ she said, ‘and I can’t believe in a god who will send me to hell because I can’t believe in him.’ I looked at her and said, ‘I can’t believe in a god like that, either.’ Continue reading “Revelation | God’s final ‘Yes!’”

1 Peter | Like a roaring lion …

I love the graphic imagery from 1 Peter, in which our adversary the devil is imagined as a roaring lion which prowls around, searching for someone to devour; and I love the confidence with which Peter assumes that, despite the hot stink of lion triggering our most primal fears, we can nevertheless remain grounded in God and steadfast in faith. In this latest outbreak of COVID-19, I am alert to my fear: fear of infection, fear of a long shutdown, fear for the social and emotional development of young people, fear for people struggling with mental health, fear for those whose homes are not safe, fear for what’s happening for people overseas. But I don’t want to be devoured by this fear; I don’t want it to shape and guide me. So Peter’s confidence is bracing, and spurs me to keep engaging in the practices which ground me in God. Continue reading “1 Peter | Like a roaring lion …”

Mark | Change your thinking, claim your life

Repentance is about changing your mind, and accepting the freedom which this new perspective brings. (Listen.)

Once upon a time, long long ago, I had a great-uncle who was slightly mad. He used to parade up and down a major traffic bridge wearing a sandwich board; on it, large letters proclaimed, ‘Repent!’ I don’t know about you, but this sort of thing makes me twitchy. It’s like the time I was sitting in a tram quietly minding my own business, when a bloke I knew to be an intermittently violent psychiatric patient loomed over me and aggressively demanded, ‘Have you been saved?’ To which I replied, ‘Yes, of course,’ and immediately scrambled past him and shot off the tram.

Continue reading “Mark | Change your thinking, claim your life”

Let’s make a splash!

Sanctuary’s taking a summer break, but here’s a little something from the archives on baptism. Note: I’m reflecting on Luke’s account (not Mark’s). (Listen.)

Baptism. It’s something John offered, and something Jesus underwent, and something his disciples are told to do. It’s got something to do with water and washing and sin: but what is it, actually? What are we doing, what are we declaring, who are we becoming when we are baptised? What does it all mean? Tonight’s story offers a few clues, but to explore the depths, we’ll first need to zoom out a little. Continue reading “Let’s make a splash!”

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