|Pen and Ink Reflections||
So, angels are coming. How will we greet them? At once, perhaps we start to ponder: but what are we greeting? And are there such things as angels anyway? Modernity’s functional materialism has so much to answer for! From a Reformed Christian perspective today it is also sometimes hard to engage. For whilst the classic Reformed theologians were quite clear that angels are to be taken very seriously, as they appear in so many places in the Bible. Yet later thinkers have found less value. In some quarters of liberal and progressive Protestantism they almost became erased: rejected with supposedly passé doctrines like the virgin birth, miracles and even major articles of the historic creeds. Ironically, as liberal Protestantism declined, other faith constructions began to thrive, not least New Age spiritualities with their extraordinary mix of angelic and other speculations. Did demythologising thereby open the door to old heresies? - as well as to a loss of divine wonder in the secular world? Certainly, as Les Murray pondered in his poem ‘The Barranong Angel Case’, which we heard read earlier, do we have the capacity to see and receive the angels of Christian tradition today?
How do you regard dragonflies? In the poem we heard earlier (As Kingfishers Catch Fire), the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins not only encourages us to be like them, but, in so doing, to be like Christ. Not everyone has always agreed however. In early colonial Australia for example, white fellas tried to kill dragonflies, just as they/we tried to kill so many other life-giving things that they/we did not understand. Those early colonialists saw dragonflies flying around and landing on their valuable horses, and they saw the horses moving and flicking their tails. So they thought the dragonflies were biting and making them crook. The colonialists were making things worse. The dragonflies were actually eating the mosquitoes and the gnats that were troubling the horses. They were life-givers, saviours even, not devils in disguise. In so many positive ways, dragonflies are thus evocative symbols for transgender people today. For, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we do well to attend to how bearers of light have been treated as embodiments of darkness. We do well, as our Gospel today (Luke 23.32-43) reminds us, to remember how Jesus was not crucified alone, and how others are also crucified today. And above all, we do well to affirm that it is only in recognising the light, in strange places, that we find salvation and hope for us all…
Nade te turbe, Solo Dios, basta – nothing can trouble, God alone holds us
Our two readings today may appear quite dissimilar in tone and features. Some of us may be tempted to ‘like’ one and ‘dislike’ the other. Our ‘liking’ a passage or not is hardly the most important thing about its truth and value however. Faith is not Facebook or Twitter! In fact these two passages are really not so apart as they might seem theologically. Both, after all, are prophetic and speak of the assurance of God. They come from different eras: the first from after the devastation of the Exile; the second from the period of the Roman empire and its colonial destruction. Yet both speak a similar message: Solo Dios, basta. They also need each other: the somewhat idealistic imaginary of the first passage being balanced by the realism of the second. I feel, for example, that they are a little like the two wings of the climate crisis movement: one side singing a powerful lament and the other a new song of creative possibilities. Without singing both we are in trouble…
.A number of years ago, Penny and I were exploring the possibility of employment with a wonderful pioneering female bishop. In the course of her hospitality she introduced us to a fellow, nearby, bishop in case he also had a parish to offer us to work in. He however took one brief look at us, and, at once, abruptly asked ‘do you believe in the Resurrection?’ It was said in a very demanding, and almost accusatory, tone. Taken aback though we were, we actually responded very well, saying together, and in a somewhat incredulous tone, ‘why yes, of course!’ The bishop was nonetheless not at all impressed and exited immediately. For, of course, his question was not one to which he really expected an answer, or at least one in which he was actually interested. Like the notorious enquiry ‘when did you stop hitting your wife?’, it was a deliberately loaded question, containing its own assumptions. Like the Sadducees’ question to Jesus in today’s Gospel reading, it was also not really about resurrection at all. How often, I wonder, are our own questions like that too? When we talk in faith spaces, how much do our own interests intrude? How do we keep open to the mystery of resurrection?...