12: Word made flesh #Lent2021

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.

Continue reading “12: Word made flesh #Lent2021”

11: The general direction #Lent2021

Jesus said, ‘Consider the wildflowers, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry … Strive first for God’s culture and God’s justice, and all you need will be given to you as well.’ (Matthew 6:28b-31a, 33)

I lived once in the same house as Fr Patrick Treanor, a Jesuit astronomer, a small man with a large brain and the face of a child.

Continue reading “11: The general direction #Lent2021”

Witnesses to the light

‘There are no final proofs for the existence of God; there are only witnesses.’ Abraham Joshua Heschel. (Listen.)

Like you, like me, John was not the light. Instead, he was sent as a witness to testify to the light which is the life of the world, and he does this in three movements: through his identification with Scripture; through particular activities; and through grounded self-knowledge. Before we hear somebody else’s witness, let’s take a closer look. Continue reading “Witnesses to the light”

What is your next step in God’s story of liberation?

Moses lives; Moses dies; but God’s story continues – and we are all invited to participate. (Listen.)

It’s the end of the road: Moses is dead. So let us remember him. He was born into slavery, slated for genocide, yet saved by brave midwives, his sister, and Pharaoh’s own daughter. He grew up to be nothing much, a shepherd and a fugitive, when God called him into service. And despite his reluctance, his anxiety, and his stutter, God used Moses to set the people free. Continue reading “What is your next step in God’s story of liberation?”

#32: Slow work

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, satisfy your needs in parched places, make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, a spring of water, waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58:6-12) Continue reading “#32: Slow work”

Yes, we are celebrating Easter as planned

So there’s a question floating around the churches: Should we celebrate Easter on the scheduled date this year, or defer? (see e.g. here). It’s a great question. We are all in some form of lockdown. Here in Australia, no more than two people can meet at any given time, and we are not able to gather physically as a church for the foreseeable future. As many have pointed out, ‘quarantine’ simply means ‘forty days’: and the timing of our enforced quarantine resonates beautifully with the current season of Lent. For Lent, too, is a forty day period. During this time, we enter into the story of Jesus being thrown into the wilderness alone. It is a time of fasting, testing, and learning to rely ever more deeply on God; it is a time of being stripped down to essentials; it is a time of acknowledging our loneliness and deep spiritual poverty; it is a time of preparation before life flourishes again. The echoes with quarantine are clear. Continue reading “Yes, we are celebrating Easter as planned”

#31: Healing leads to ministry

The word translated here as ‘serve’ is translated as ‘minister’ elsewhere in the New Testament. How odd that male translation committees tend to do this when women are involved! Anyway … When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases. (Matthew 8:14-17) Continue reading “#31: Healing leads to ministry”

Not Donald, not Boris, but you and me

In this time of global pandemic, closed borders, economic collapse, isolation, and loneliness, ordinary people like us are needed to do God’s priestly work. (Listen.)

It wasn’t Donald, as he boasted and blustered and bribed his way to the top. It wasn’t Vlad, with his iron fist and steely will and heart of stone. It wasn’t Boris, as he manipulated fear and stirred up trouble and tore people apart. And it wasn’t Scottie from marketing, with his smooth talking smugness at his own success. Instead, it was the one everyone forgot, the one rambling the hillsides, the one who stank of sheep. Continue reading “Not Donald, not Boris, but you and me”

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