What jumps out at you in any Gospel story? Asking that question is part of the practice of Lectio Divina – divine reading of the scriptures. If you are not aware of that spiritual pathway, do speak with Penny afterwards! Approaching scripture that way, today it is the phrase ‘by another road’ which springs out for me from the text. Now I know that is partly because, in returning to Sydney very soon, I am taking ‘another road’ in my life and ministry this year. Indeed, this Gospel passage came to mind vividly when I came to accepting a fresh calling in the Uniting Church. What I have to say today is linked to that reflective unpacking. Yet isn’t ‘by another road’ a great phrase for most of us in our world at this time, as we emerge from 2020 where old roads (literally and metaphorically) were difficult if not impossible, and as we begin a new year? Let me suggest three ways in which this may be so, drawing on the story of the Magi. For there are at least three great questions which the Magi pose, and embody, for us all. How, that is, will we learn, love and light up our world, so that we too journey home ‘by another road’?...
One of the saddest sounding of Christian truisms is that ‘God has no grandchildren’. When I first heard that phrase I was a little taken aback. Of course what it is trying to say is that we cannot have spiritual relationships at second hand. Each of us has to respond to God in our own particular way. Despite what some would like to believe, we cannot directly inherit faith from our parents, or from others. They can put us on the right path, just as Mary and Joseph were doing in taking Jesus to the temple in today’s Gospel story. We have responsibilities too to others to offer them spiritual pathways, and to invite them into journeys of faith. Ultimately however, each of us has to unwrap the present, and receive the promise, ourselves. Nonetheless, do we really believe that God does not enjoy relationships like a grandparent, or a grandchild for that matter? I truly do not think so: a conviction born both of my own experience and today’s Gospel story. Rather what I see and know is the extraordinary wonder of God in cross-generational relationships, and, not least, the resilience and joy of elders of many kinds…
Our little confirmation group had a spirited conversation last week, looking at Scripture and how it came to be formed and how we might now interpret it. We were helped along by the early realisation that most of us have what was described as a ‘pick and MISS’ relationship with scripture. Now if that idea offends you, you might want to shut your ears for a few minutes. What we meant was that not all of scripture nourishes us – and certainly not all of scripture nourishes us all, all of the time. In fact, some of it could be seen as down-right dangerous and bad for our mental health. This brings us to today’s parable – which quite frankly I might have been inclined to put in the ‘miss’ bucket. It is attributed only to Matthew, which might give us pause to begin with, and its sentiments seem to run counter to much of what Jesus says in other places. But here it is in the lectionary, so what are we going to do with it?...
A few weeks ago I invited us all to address the question of Jesus: ‘who do you say that I am?’ This is central to the Christian spiritual pathway. As I affirmed, the answers to that question will differ, as they have differed, subtly or significantly, down the centuries. Today, on St Luke’s Day, Penny and I want to ask three more questions, which also feed into our community visioning day. They seek to open up three important areas of life: firstly, healing; secondly, hospitality; and thirdly, how do we hand on hope, as we experience it in our spiritual lives. Penny and I will do this together as a conversation. For, after all, isn’t one of the most beautiful stories in Luke’s Gospel that of the conversation between the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as they rediscover the living Christ in new ways?
Before all that however, I want to ask Penny about our relationship to St Luke. For we’ve had a bit of history with St Luke, haven’t we?...
‘My burden is light’. This assurance from Jesus invites us to consider the things we carry, and how burdensome they really are. It invites the question, 'how much is enough?' How much is enough of anything - faith, love, food, work, information? We live in a culture that is dominated by the excess of many things. Yet as human animals we are driven by a seemingly insatiable appetite for more. While this may be a part of our biology, our scriptures and traditions teach us another way, that may help us off the treadmill of more, more, more. God in Christ invites us into another way of seeing the world and our needs within it – the way not of the ‘wise and intelligent’ (I think being understood here as those who think they are wise and intelligent and have the paperwork to prove it!) but rather the way of the vulnerable and open, the ‘infants’...
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...
‘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?...