|Pen and Ink Reflections||
‘By faith’ – what a powerful and ringing repeated phrase that is in the Letter to the Hebrews chapter 11. Last Sunday and this Sunday we have heard it read in two parts, telling some of the stories of those who have gone before us in the story of God as told in the Bible. This great passage relates the stories of so many heroes of faith in the Hebrew traditions. ‘By faith’ – the Letter affirms so strongly how all kinds of extraordinary events and achievements flow from the power of trust and courage that true faith enables. Note well: this is faith not as a set of beliefs or practices or organisational structures, as so many would have us see ‘faith’ today; but biblical faith, which is about inspiration, risk, and energy. As such, it encourages us to take heart, to draw on similar energy, and to take risks in our own day. What might we ourselves seek to achieve?...
As each of us comes to worship today, how are we going in our lives and faith? Are we ourselves wrestling with challenging things in our lives, and with God? Are we bearing wounds? Are we seeking blessing, or feeling blessed? In what ways are we perhaps ‘God’s Wrestlers’, ‘God’s Wounded’, ‘God’s Blessed’? These are but three different ways of approaching the great Hebrew story we encounter today in our lectionary (Genesis 32.22-31) - the story we may call Jacob’s Wrestling with the Angel, or alternatively, Jacob’s Wounding, or Jacob’s Blessing...
What does holiness, and being saintly, look like to you?
Where have you seen and experienced holiness, in the lives of other human beings you might call saintly?
On this feast of All Saints it is right for us to ponder for a moment, and to reflect, perhaps with others, on what we have seen and heard… what, I wonder, do we see, and who and what do we call holy? How does this fit with the patterns and pointers we find in our Scriptures and Tradition?
As I feel sure many of you will remember, in the Monty Python movie “Life of Brian”, Jesus at one point is discovered by Brian teaching the people. There is a huge crowd gathered around him – very much as described in our passage today – so huge that some of the people on the outer edge of the crowd cannot hear what he is saying. As Jesus pronounces what have become known as the Beatitudes -the declaration of those who are blessed – one of the characters in the movie, desperate to know what Jesus is saying asks a man ahead of him in the crowd, ‘what is he saying – what’s he saying.’ The man checks with someone in front of him, who in turn checks with someone else and then the message is relayed back, rather as in the game of Chinese whispers - “The Master says, “Blessed are the cheesemakers”
Well that was obviously a joke! – but it also a good reminder to us about how easily we misunderstand what Jesus has said, and how often we misunderstand about blessing. I was talking with you last week a little bit about the dangers of the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ and about how it is easy to assume that when things are going well God is blessing us and conversely when things are hard that somehow, we have lost God’s favour. There really could not be a clearer reversal of that thinking than today’s Gospel passage (Luke 6.17-26)...
an address in favour of blessings after civil ceremonies for other than traditional male and female couples
at the Synod of the Diocese of Brisbane, October 2018...
‘There was an ancient music on the earth before humans ever came here. Imagine what the first music of the wind was like when the earth was born out of nothing. Imagine the wind being released for the first time, and finding itself running into silver mountains, dark mountains, skimming over boiling oceans. And if you enter into the dream which brought you here, and awaken its beauty in you, then the beauty will gradually awaken all around you.’
- so begins the introduction to the film ‘Celtic Pilgrimage’ which shares much of John O’Donohue’s life and work. And, in a way, like many of his sayings, those gorgeously fashioned few words alone might really be enough for us to ponder tonight. For the heart of much of his insight and encouragement to live is contained in them: the vitality of creation and the landscape; the call to imagination and to enter into the dreams of our life; and the centrality of beauty and of wonder. John O’Donohue’s life and work was an invitation and example of how to attend to such presence and to travel as adventurous pilgrims into them…
What experiences have we had of the fabled Australian ‘Tall Poppy Sydrome’? ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is of course known in other countries by other names, yet it is true to say that it has had a particular strong place in our own national culture, and that of Aotearoa New Zealand. For it has been used, pejoratively, to describe the way in which people of sometimes outstanding merit can be resented, attacked, criticised, or cut down, because their talents or achievements distinguish them from their peers. Or, as a saying in Chinese and Japanese culture has it: ‘the nail that stands out gets hammered down’. Some have thus wondered recently whether ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is a factor in our remarkable turnover of Prime Ministers, something which has made us the puzzlement, and to some extent the laughing stock, of the rest of the world What do you think? I feel that there are other concerning factors too, including certain limitations and power structures of our political parties, the undoubted personality weaknesses of some politicians who have risen to power, and, not least, the unusually short gap between elections compared to other developed nations. Yet ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is surely a reality in our politics, as it is in many aspects of our national life. So, as we hear today the great Gospel story of Jesus and his community’s ‘Tall Poppy’ reaction, what are we to make of our gifts and talents?...
Penny Jones for Lent 1: Mark 1:9-15
We are at the beginning of Lent – that annual opportunity to celebrate the heart of our Christian faith. For Christianity is always about beginning again. Our faith encourages us to believe in the possibility of the second chance; of a new start right now. No matter how many times we have gone wrong in the past or will go wrong in the future; no matter how old or how young we are, the Christian gospel is always encouraging us to trust that we can begin again.
So in these forty days we are encouraged to keep the fast in three ways– by abstaining , whether from food, drink, Facebook, TV, excessive work or whatever our soul most needs; by engaging more deeply in prayer, whether at home, or in a study group, or by journallng or walking or whatever most noursihes in us the longing for God; and by committing to the giving of alms – some charitable giving beyond our usual commitments. These three things, fasting, prayer and almsgiving form the heart of this time, and are the means by which we prepare ourselves for the great festival of Easter.
We begin all these things this week...