I have to admit that I was a little surprised when I looked at the Australian Anglican lectionary for today, with the remarkable John of God as the saint of the day. This feeling grew as I looked at the Church of England’s lectionary calendar for today. For this includes three other remarkable male figures: Felix, 7th century bishop and apostle to the East Angles in England; Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy - better known as Woodbine Willie - the remarkable priest, first world war chaplain, poet and promoter of the Industrial Christian Fellowship; and Edward King, 19th century principal of Cuddesdon, my theological college and saintly bishop of Lincoln. Each of these, like John of God, commands attention. Yet this day, 8 March, is International Women’s Day. One does wonder whether Anglicans are really switched on. Surely we might find one or more female saints to make a link today? Instead, we have to be much more creative to make connection…
One of the most memorable, transforming, and ultimately deeply poignant sermons I ever heard was at theological college, over thirty years ago, when I was what we now call a formation student. The address was given by an American student who was with us for a short while. It was on the subject of Peter’s dream in the Acts of the Apostles and the remarkable turnaround in the early Church which we hear about in Acts chapter 15 today. Far from being remote events, my fellow student brought them alive in an intensely powerful way. This, you may understand, was during the last tumultuous days of controversy before the ordination of women in the Church of England and in the first real stirrings of pain and freedom among LGBTIQ+ people across the world. Yet, challenging though those things were, and still are some even today, they are nothing, my fellow student pointed out, to the radical transformation we find in these texts from Acts. For centuries, almost forever really, we, the Gentiles, with our characteristics and our lifestyles, lay outside full inclusion in the body of God’s community. Yet Paul, Peter, and even James, the bulwark of Jewish Christian foundations, came to welcome us as equals in the life of salvation. In contrast, how much lesser such a conversion is asked of us, said my fellow student. So can we, as Peter, as Church, embrace today those who also who, like the Gentiles long ago, not only come to us, but even flourish among us, against the odds, against our human-fashioned, provisional rules?...
address by The Revd Dr Jon Inkpin and the Revd Penny Jones to Toowoomba Marriage Equality meeting, 17 April 2016
It is sometimes said that ‘you are either part of the problem or part of the solution’. In our case we are very much connected to part of that which indeed is often the problem, but we also hope we can be part of the solution. For we have been married to each other for 30 years, presided at marriage ceremonies for about 60 years between us, and shared both amazing joys, and, sadly, many tears with many LGBTI friends and family members for so much unnecessary pain, abuse, and rejection. So, above all, want to affirm three things which we feel are at the heart of this issue, and at the heart of Christian faith - namely: love, valuing everyone as part of God’s image, and being and growing family. We feel we need to say something briefly about two things which some misuse to hold us back: Christian tradition and the Bible. And we want to suggest three key areas of resistance. In doing so, we hope and pray for a speedy end to so much unnecessary suffering and look forward to many more tears of joy as marriage is extended and grown.
We would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Jarowair and Giabal peoples, their elders past and present. And we do so, because this helps us nurture respect, deepen relationship, and find renewal for us all – which, of course, is what marriage equality is also about at its best. For from a Christian point of view, marriage is about sharing in the ultimate mystery of love. We only have to go to the opening words of scripture from our Anglican marriage service to see that: ‘God is love’, we say, ‘and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them’ (1 John 4.16). For Christians, that is the heart of the matter: where is love in all of this? In the end, what would Jesus do?...
What does a saint look like? One of the saints I have known was a wonderful Geordie lady called Ellen King. There were many ways in which she loved God and her neighbours. Almost every day this included her hard work in the baker’s shop she shared with her sisters. The shop and bakery was on the old Sunderland Road in Gateshead, close by the river Tyne, and it was always a busy place. For local people it was also a source of both physical and spiritual sustenance. Almost all who came to the shop were poor or struggling in various ways. Always they had a wonderful warm welcome from Ellen. Indeed children, and those particularly desperate, usually received an extra something tasty. Everyone enjoyed gorgeous homemade bread, full of joy and yumminess.
I still think of Ellen’s bakery as a model of what church is at its best: a place of faith and hope, offering sustenance for life’s journey, physical and spiritual, with love and eternal joy sharing suffering and surprising gifts with anyone and everyone who passes through. Not for nothing perhaps is the baker woman an image of God in Godself. Both Matthew (chapter 13 verse 33, and Luke 13, verses 20-21) share this resonant metaphor of God’s work in and through us. It is reflected in so much that is good in Christian living, not least in the baking of bread, literally and metaphorically, in our homes and churches, in the many gatherings, meals, and times of hospitality we share together, and, vitally, with others. As we reflect again, today, on the theme of Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life, let us therefore give thanks for the presence of the baker woman God among us, in one another and in the hospitality we share with others…
How do we handle anger?
A few years ago I found myself full of a very great deal of anger. I was deeply enraged about a situation in which I and others found ourselves. Anger was certainly quite understandable. Looking back now, I would feel a good deal of that anger again if I was in a similar context. A number of us had been treated badly for some time and others had suffered as a consequence. The final straw was a decision brusquely imposed upon us: a dictatorial imposition which upset, and in many ways contradicted, the very essence of the purposes and relationships in which we were engaged. It was not a happy time, for some time, as we struggled with the pain and the anguish. Such anger both cost and chastened me and also changed and clarified me. For as they say, that which does not kill you makes you stronger. I learned a great deal about myself in the process. I learned that anger is an inevitable part of my passion for life and that, if I am to retain my passion, I must sometime have to deal with anger and express it. Yet I also learned that passion can also destroy if it is not grounded in compassion: daily grounded, ever more deeply, in that divine love which transforms all our human passions, struggles and emotions. This is the path of the cross, the path of Lent, along which we are drawn by Jesus…
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,