|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Exploring ways into the tearing of hearts and suffering of our lives and world...
On this day we gather to remember the suffering of Christ, and those who. like Christ, have suffered: often needlessly, seemingly pointlessly. We will reflect upon seven circles of suffering: in our own person, in our family, in our close relationships, in our wider community, in our nation, in our world and in our earth. We light the Christ candle and seven candles
to bring to mind those seven areas where pain is often experienced. As we reflect more deeply on each one its candle will be extinguished but the Christ candle will continue.
What does the word care mean to you? And what does it mean to us as a community?
In the area where I was born, this particular Sunday in the year is traditionally known as Carlin(g), or Care, Sunday. It includes a centuries old custom of eating meals made of Carlin peas – otherwise known as black, maple, or pigeon peas – warm and nourishing fare for poor communities. Today, though the traditions are slowly dying out, such peas can still be bought in places like the markets in Durham. Where exactly the custom came from depends on whom you ask in the north east of England. Most trace Carling back to at least the British Civil Wars, when the great city of Newcastle upon Tyne was besieged, only to be saved from hunger by ships from overseas carrying black peas – again, depending on whom you ask, from France, or Norway, or somewhere else. The point is that this was about being saved from distressing cares, and also sharing care. To share the poor people’s meal of peas, is thus to share a kind of communion, of salvation, and care. Where then, I wonder, do we find the sources of our care, and share our communion with the poor?...
“Jesus said, “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow me.”
We want to follow Jesus – why else would we be here this morning? So, it sounds like we had best take up our cross and get on with it. But what does that actually mean?...
Some questions require more of us than others. So it is with the central question Jesus asks in today’s Gospel: ‘but who do you say I am?’ It is typical Jesus, isn’t it? Rather than dictate or demand, he invites. Leaders, not least spiritual leaders, take note. Jesus is not giving, or expecting, a set answer. Rather they are challenging us to make our own response. As such, they are calling us into deeper relationship, by drawing us into the most profound experiences of our bodies, hearts and minds. Nor is this a once and for all answer to be made. For, as we meet again today, Jesus is asking us once more, as individuals and as a community, ‘but who do you say that I am?’. What answers have we to give?...
One of the great things about theology from the margins is how it brings the Bible alive in liberating ways. Therefore, as the young gay Sydney Anglican Joel Hollier puts it, for many queer folk like he and I, ‘we’re not queer despite the Bible. We’re queer because of the Bible.’ As we read the Bible ‘with queer eyes’, more and more sexually and gender diverse people are renewing the very elements which gave the Bible power in the first place: seeing and exploring the extraordinary diversity and dynamic of goodness in creation and human bodies; the central call to justice and infinite compassion for all; the redeeming power of love in the face of suffering and death; and the resurrection promise of new life and flourishing found in the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the world. That is one reason why, personally, I’m so over the old arguments about sexuality and gender, not least the so-called ‘clobber texts’. Honestly, why on earth would we waste time on others’ hang-ups, when we’ve such good news to explore and share? In this, today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 9.36ff) is a striking example. For in Tabitha/Dorcas, we find a startling model of discipleship from the margins: truly, an evocative, entrepreneurial, exemplar…
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…
Shall we agree to disagree? No, we won’t. That has been the answer to that question through much of human history, hasn’t it? Isn’t it still the answer today in many places and in many parts of our own lives, including within the Anglican Communion today? As human beings we really struggle with the idea of unity on any other basis than what seems good, and restricted, to us. We see this played out, time and time again, in politics, in the great events of the world, in contested issues within the church and other community groups, and in our own family and personal lives. So praying for Unity and Reconciliation, as we do today, is a real challenge. For what kind of unity and reconciliation are we actually praying? Is it that our will, or God’s will, be done? Is a different answer to the question ‘shall we agree to disagree?’ part of this? I have been reflecting on these things over the last few days in relation to three key issues which have touched my heart: namely the terrorist bombing in Manchester, the campaign for Marriage Equality (a keynote Brisbane meeting of which I attended this week), and Australian Reconciliation. Each raise thorny problems if we look at them in certain ways. Yet they offer us encouragement to true unity with genuine diversity if we regard them in other ways. For how do we picture unity? It makes all the difference how we see it…
Come as you are; that’s how I love you;
Come as you are, trust me again.
Nothing can change the love that I bear you;
all will be well, just come as you are.
- the words of our opening song today express the heart of our God and our Faith: that love is what truly matters, for this is the heart of God, and true Faith; not law, or conventional morality, nor who we are, or what we have, nor who or what we know, nor what we have done, or not done, nor what race, face, space, colour, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, politics, taste in music, ability to sing and dance, food allergies, beauty, quirks, height, width, shoe size, dress size, hat size, nor anything else we may have. Honestly! It really does not matter to God: the God of Jesus, the God of inexhaustible and unconditional love. Just ‘Come as you are; that’s how I love you.’ Do we believe that? Do we really believe that? For it makes all the difference, to us and to others, whether we really do. In fact, I would go so far as to say, that the very future of our church and our world depends on whether we do. Will we shape our lives, our church and world on this amazing grace of God’s hospitality? Or will we settle for loving ourselves and others in ways which do not reflect God’s love for us and for all of God’s Creation?...