all desires known
If I were choosing the books which have most shaped and inspired my life, then very high on that list would be Janet Morley’s All Desires Known. Originally published in England in 1988 by the Movement for the Ordination of Women, and Women in Theology, it remains not only as an evocative expression of the Christian feminism which shaped so much of my early adult and ministerial life, which I also shared in with my wife Penny, and which, in many ways (together with other aspects of faith, and football) saved my life. Like Janet Morley’s earlier book Celebrating Women, co-edited with Hannah Ward, it also represents a landmark in the development of new life-giving language and imagery for God. For All Desires Known is a book of prayers for public and private worship, and it was formed out of the experience of an intentional community, the St Hilda Community, which specifically sought ‘to receive the broader vision of our Christian heritage and women’s spiritual offerings in language which excludes no person and no image of God’: a ‘non-sexist’ community, giving ‘full space and authority to women, without apology, secrecy, or shame.’ It is good to recall this today, in the wake of International Women’s Day this week, and as we hear the subversive, and in some ways shocking, Gospel story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. For exploring life-giving language and imagery for God and prayer remains an invitation to us all. Like the woman at the well, we too seek living water, and the source which can quench our thirst: our profound, existential desire for life in all its fullness.
Today’s Gospel reading is a very rich passage, full of extraordinary metaphors, story and meaning. It includes, for example, that powerful central affirmation of Christian Faith that God so loved the world that they sent their Beloved One that all who believe may have eternal life. Note well the heart of this good news: that God loves the world so much that all who believe – not just the doctrinally righteous, or the ethically conservative, but all may have eternal life. For the God we celebrate today is the God of unlimited, inexhaustible, love. As our Gospel text says, Christ comes among us not for condemnation, but for love and salvation. Let us therefore affirm again that you, we, all of us, are loved. The Gospel, our Good News, invites us to claim this, and live it. All of which brings us, in this passage, to the person of Nicodemus, and to light, and darkness…
a reflection for Midsumma (Melbourne LGBTI+) Festival, on the feast of Brigid & Darlughdach
First of all, may I thank you for the invitation to speak today, and, as an incomer, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land: the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging. Our struggles and joys are bound together.
A ‘queer’ saint?
Is Brigid a queer saint, do you think? I don’t just mean as a likely LGBTI+ sacred forebear, but in the sense of being a figure who challenges and transforms our conceptions and ideas of holiness. Of course the word ‘queer’ is highly contested, and also disliked, for good reasons, among some sexually and gender diverse people. Yet among the broad range of its meaning, ‘queer’ does, I think, have its value. As we meet on the feast of Saint Brigid, it is certainly one way into reflecting on what she has to say to us as we celebrate Midsumma Festival, and the lives and contributions of sexually and gender diverse people. For, on the most obvious level, it is certainly apposite to remark on Brigid and her relationship with her intimate companion Darlughdach, with whom she shares this saint’s day, as she shared so much of her life, including her bed. Whilst so much about Brigid is cast about with legend, it seems reasonable to me therefore to place her, and Darlughdach, high in the pantheon of LGBTI+ Christian saints. Even if some might contest that however, Brigid undoubtedly offers us distinctive, transgressive, and mysterious paths into life and God: vital and vibrant queer ways, into holiness and transformation…
bread and roses - the song of Mary
As you may be aware, there is a tradition in more Catholic Christian circles of using rose pink as a colour for this Sunday. For the third Sunday of Advent has often been known as “Gaudete’ – or ‘Rejoice’ – Sunday, and rose pink, became linked to it, as rose pink is also associated with Mary the Mother of Jesus. So, being a bit into colours at the moment, especially pink ones, I thought I’d do a little investigation into the subject. The first thing I came across was the Readers Digest guide to rose colour meanings It begins very interestingly. The red rose is said to symbolise love, and, I quote, is ‘Perfect for: freaking out your first date; covering beer stains; wooing a hunky bishop.’ So, something to bear in mind there? In contrast, according to Readers Digest, the pink rose is said to express grace and elegance, as well as sweetness and sympathy: and thus: ‘Perfect for: sick secretaries, (and) the platinum blonde in your life.’ Again, is there something useful for us to remember there? Well, maybe just a teens-weensy bit of gender stereotyping in that, don’t you think?! It is a little like many approaches to Mary, the Mother of Jesus …
greater things than these
Yesterday, thanks to Amerson, Jo and I were privileged to attend the Sustainability Day at Hillbrook Anglican College. It was so much more than a school fair. The stalls and activities were all designed to educate and encourage participants in building a more sustainable future for our planet - from recycling and re-using through to healthy eating and making your own smoothie in a pedal powered blender. The money raised from the day will go not to the college but this year to fund Aboriginal literacy schemes. I was very impressed by the ways in which Anglican Christian values were being put into practice in really creative ways. It put me in mind of today's gospel text, 'the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and in fact will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father'...
What happened on 14 July 1833? Well, obviously, all kinds of things, not least in post-Revolutionary France perhaps, albeit it had at that point backslid into a monarchy. For Anglicans that day has certainly become a momentous turning point, for it was the date of John Keble’s famous Assizes Sermon in Oxford, a sermon given traditionally at the start of the law courts in England. It was not a call to Revolution. Yet it was a call to arms and to re-foundation and it issued in a movement of considerable change. In the face of a greatly transforming world, and of significant changes in church-society relationships, it helped give the Church of England a fresh identity and vitality. So, on the anniversary of his death, as we remember John Keble, can the memory of that sermon, and of his life and ministry, challenge us to find similar purpose and energy today?
Have you heard the tale of the barefoot man, the migrant woman and the taxi driver? It is a true story that Pope Francis recently told to more than 25 000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square…
So Penny, which is it to be – traditions of gold, or possibilities untold? Which of the two parts of the theme of our 50th Carnival of Flowers Festival would you stress the most? I’m guessing the second part – possibilities untold? Whereas, I reckon you might guess that I’d go for the first part – traditions of gold? Or is the real answer something else altogether: something which transcends and completes them both – traditions of gold and possibilities untold? What do you say?
When I was growing up, I was part of a church named after St Thomas, but we sadly rarely marked the apostle's saint's day. For the 21st December has often been the date for doing so in our Anglican calendar. Being so near to Christmas other things tend to overwhelm it. Admittedly, in the Easter season, we do tend to reflect upon the story of Thomas’ resurrection encounter. This is the Gospel reading in this morning’s pew sheet (John 20.24-29). It is a great story. Yet there is more to Thomas and his witness to God’s love than that and we can often miss that out. More recently indeed we therefore have the option of marking the feast of Thomas on this day, the 3rd of July, which is a great blessing. For it allows us to ponder Thomas, not only in relation to the resurrection, but also in relation to sharing God’s love with the wider world. So it is good also to reflect on the usual Gospel reading set for today (Luke 10.1-11). For Thomas is rightly revered today as a great missionary, not least across India, whose historic churches typically trace their origin to his sharing of the good news of God’s love and peace in the very early days after the resurrection. This is the mission of love and peace which Jesus entrusts to his followers: to Thomas and others down the centuries and to you and I in our own age…
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?...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney