Today is Trinity Sunday, when the church tries to describe the indescribable; to point to the character and action of the Divine that is always dynamic and evolving. The early teachers of the church came to describe God as Trinity – three equal ‘persons’ or expressions of God, Father, Son and Spirit – or in the beautiful and more inclusive language of Julian of Norwich, the Maker, the Lover and the Keeper. It is a picture of God as a community of equality. That in itself is of immense importance in a world where inequality and autocracy tend to rise up as we have seen this week in the United States. The picture of God as Trinity shows us how God’s very being and nature is about relationship and love. How might this picture of God as Trinity help us in these days of change and challenge across our world?...
“He breathed on them and said, ’Receive the Holy Spirit’”
- Oh my: it’s to be hoped they were all at 1.5metres distance and wearing masks!...
I have been thinking about what it means to be an advocate. The word comes from the law courts and literally means to ‘add a voice to’ – referring to those who would speak and add their testimony on behalf of a defendant. In Latin behind that word is the word vocare – to call or summon, from which we derive our word vocation.
It seems to me that advocacy is a core charism and calling here at Milton Anglican. We have for example accepted the call to add our voice to that of the homeless in our area; to allow the voices of those traumatised by their years of war service especially in Afghanistan to be heard; to encourage the voices of creative people especially artists to emerge; to recognize the voices and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and to add our voices to those of the Rainbow community, creating safe space where all can be affirmed and heard.
Today is IDAHOBIT – the International Day against homophobia, bi-phobia, inter-phobia and transphobia. In the thirty years since its inception much advocacy has occurred – not all of it well received in society and especially not in church. Yet God in Christ continues to give us the Spirit of truth to guide us and encourage us. Receiving that Spirit in an ongoing way however makes demands of us as individuals and as church. Three demands in particular strike me as key – the demand of compassion, the demand of courage and the demand of contemplation.
Without compassion – the capacity to place ourselves in the shoes of the other and suffer with them, not merely alongside them – advocacy becomes sterile. Metaphorically there is no room for social distance in compassion. The issue of the other person becomes my issue and I fight for them as I would for my own life.
This requires courage. We cannot then hide behind claims of ignorance, lack of information or fear of consequences. We are called to step up and stand with those who are most vulnerable. In doing so we can claim for ourselves only the promise of Jesus, ‘I will not leave you orphaned’ – or in the beautiful translation of the authorized version, ‘comfortless.’ We shall not be comfortless – but nor shall we be comfortable, for such courageous advocacy is costly.
In order to risk and pay that cost, we need to embrace the demand of contemplation. When our words and actions arise from the deep place of contemplation they carry authority and power. Jesus said, ‘You know him, because he abides with you and he will be in you’. We need to get to know the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. In time spent apart, we need to allow that Spirit into every crevice of our being, stripping us of ego and filling us with love. It is not a path for the faint hearted. But it is the path of love, and of life.
So, may we in contemplation seek the gifts of compassion and courage, and may we continue to respond to our call as individuals and as a parish to add our voices to those whom others seek to ignore or silence. In the name of Christ our Advocate. Amen.
Penny Jones, for Sunday 17 May, 6th Sunday of Easter
‘But he [Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”’ (John 20.25b)
My father was a fine schoolmaster who came into his own when he performed as ‘Wizard Chiz’ at the annual school fete. Extraordinarily creative, he would demonstrate the miraculous realities of what we usually call ‘chemistry’. My father was also very knowledgeable about such things as the Periodic Table. Yet, it was sharing about chemistry’s wondrous mystery that really counted for him.
I recall this in reflecting on Thomas’ encounter with the resurrected Christ. For he approached Jesus like exploring science as mere practicality, consequently missing the mystery. Sadly, too many still approach God like this, seeking nailed-down ‘proofs’ that bolster misguided securities before we are willing to respond. This is the alarming commonality of both militant secularists and religious fundamentalists. Faith must indeed attend to reason, but its call is essentially an invitation to wonder and adventure.
As J.K Rowling suggested in the Harry Potter series, living into faith and love are like becoming a true wizard. In today’s Gospel, Thomas acted, as we often do, like a Muggle. However, as Indian Christians especially will remind us, there is much more to Thomas. As a remarkable faith adventurer, Thomas went on to grasp, and share with others, the Resurrection’s true reality, as the transforming mystery of unconquerable love.
We, too, may be inclined to dwell on repeated doubts or affirmations of unnecessary details. Yet God’s invitation is to live out the mystery. This is life’s true chemistry.
by Jo Inkpin, for Sunday 19 April 2020, 2nd Sunday after Easter
- also published in Anglican Focus here
Two questions and a deceptively simple answer!
What are you looking for? Where are you staying?
Come and see.
We could meditate on those three simple phrases for a month – or a lifetime! What John gives us here is not so much history, as theology and spirituality. He gives us an introduction in this opening chapter of his gospel to themes that he is going to explore throughout – the theme of seeing and the theme of staying.
Let’s spend a little time with each of these phrases. ‘What are you looking for?’ asks Jesus, when he realizes that Andrew and his friend are stalking him. Now this isn’t like Petrina’s polite enquiry to someone in the fresh produce department at Woolies! This is the question we might all ask ourselves as we think about our relationship with Jesus. What are we actually looking for when we come to church, or try to pray? What are we looking for along our life’s journey?...
Shortly before we were ordained in 1986, Jo and I were privileged to attend the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh. Its title – ‘In Search of a Larger Christ” – and the impact of some of the speakers has stayed with me for a lifetime of ministry. The speakers were global – African, Latin-American, and for me most notable the great Asian theologian Kosuke Koyama. In impeccable English, Kosuke Koyama explained that it was impossible to understand the character and work of Christ until you had attempted to translate that into a language other than your birth language. His point was that our ideas about Christ are shaped by the culture and context in which we first encounter Christ. Until we stretch ourselves to translate those ideas into a different culture, our idea of Christ will always be too small. Let me tell you, our idea of Christ is way too small – and that was very clear to me in preparing this sermon today for Cosmos Sunday.
Taking up today’s Gospel (Luke 15.1-10), I want to speak about three things: queer sheep, the value of women’s coins, and rainbow repentance; about how queer sheep need revaluing; about how women’s coins challenge Church and world to rainbow repentance; and about how rainbow repentance involves renewing pride in queer sheep. Firstly though, let me speak of a cartoon highlighting these themes. For, like a good picture, an insightful cartoon can paint a thousand words…
How do you feel about anointing? I’m talking full on anointing here. I don’t just mean anointing as a metaphor, nor the very reserved forms of anointing which can take place in many churches. I mean oil poured out profusely: all over the head, body, and feet. I mean total divine sensate massage and aromatherapy: exquisite sensation, overpowering perfume, near sensory overload. Ever tried it? The Orthodox Church typically anoints someone all over at baptism - I kind of like that. It reminds us that, to be a Christian, is about being soaked in the Holy Spirit, exuberantly alive with fabulous sensation and fresh nurturing life. That, certainly, is at the heart of the Gospel story we hear today: an amazingly radical story, on so many levels, which models, and invites us to become more fully the beloved community of vivacious, scandalous, love…
The following story is from a sermon by Martin Luther King. “My brother and I were driving one evening to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta. He was driving the car. And for some reason the drivers were very discourteous that night. They didn’t dim their lights; hardly any driver that passed by dimmed his lights. And I remember very vividly, my brother A. D. looked over and in a tone of anger said: ‘I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power.’ And I looked at him right quick and said: ‘Oh no, don’t do that. There’d be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.’
It can be very tempting to ‘get back’ at someone whom we perceive to have wronged us or others. What Jesus offers, and Martin Luther-King took up, is a new standard; a positive approach; a non-violent way to proceed even in situations of great oppression and violence...
The great and much maligned former Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, used to say, “We are not up to it, but thank God, God gets down to it.” Today we have heard the stories of three quite ordinary people, Isaiah, Paul and Peter, who did not feel up to it; yet by the grace of God, they found themselves caught up in God’s work; despite their own feelings of weakness and inadequacy.
I don’t know what your own experience has been, but I have certainly learned that following God's call is not a single event. Rather it is a life - long process filled with much failure punctuated with occasional bright points of something that felt like ‘success’, but not success as most people would measure it...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,