Esther, empire and the hiddenness of God

Esther shows that when insecure fools are in charge, even the most disempowered person may trigger a radical policy reversal. (Listen.)

Esther is not a love story; it’s a story about powerful men. Esther is not a love story; it’s a story of faithfulness and courage. Esther is not a love story; it’s a story about the hiddenness of God. And yet ‘love story’, even ‘beauty pageant’, is the interpretation of Esther that many of us were taught. So today, we’re going to blow that reading out of the water: then we’ll look more closely at what it’s really about. Continue reading “Esther, empire and the hiddenness of God”

The courage to be worthless

The parable of the talents challenges us to speak truth to power, whatever the consequences. (Listen.)

The parable of the talents is an incredibly odd little puzzle. Every way we turn it, we find another way of reading it: and so people have been turning it and wrestling with it for millennia. Even so, one interpretation has dominated the church. You probably know how it goes. God gives us talents—money, skills, capabilities—and if we don’t use them to achieve dramatic outcomes, God will throw us away. But this doesn’t sound much like God. So let’s unpick this interpretation, for we might discover a very different reading which is an encouragement to us all.

Continue reading “The courage to be worthless”

#38: The whole truth

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’ (Mark 5:24b-34) Continue reading “#38: The whole truth”

Predatory foxes and powerless hens

Listen here.

Please be aware that this reflection includes a description of family violence.

“Where was God?” a friend once wrote to me. “Where was God when my father was on the rampage, trying to break down my bedroom door? Where was God when I was hiding under the dining room table, shaking and terrified? Why didn’t God keep me safe?” There’s an old children’s song that goes like this: “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do …” And when I think of my dear friend, who sang songs like this in religious education classes at school, and who begged God to keep her safe from her father at home, my heart breaks. Continue reading “Predatory foxes and powerless hens”

Pell-mell to the cross

It is Lent, and one of the most powerful men in the Catholic church has just been sentenced to jail for the sexual assault of two altar boys. It reminds me of a terrible story by the Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, which is based on his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. Three people were sentenced to hanging for sabotage, among them a young boy. The two men died quickly, but the boy, too light, writhed and swung between life and death for over half an hour. Continue reading “Pell-mell to the cross”

Vultures, Victims and Vengeance

DANIELLE STOTT WRITES: “The vulture sitting on the cross represents clergy who abuse their flock. The vulture is in fact sitting on the cross, holding it down on Christ. Meanwhile the sheep, Christ’s people, who he shepherds, walk away from the cross (or the vulture?) in confusion and hurt. So Christ carries his cross alone, in agony and deep sadness; almost being crushed by its weight. The sheep head towards the light, but of course it is false hope because Jesus said “come follow me” as he was on the way to Golgotha, to darkness.”  Continue reading “Vultures, Victims and Vengeance”

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