One of things I’m thankful for in my years of ministry is the memorial cross I helped install in the Warriors Chapel in St Luke’s Church Toowoomba. It remembers the battle of Meewah, otherwise known as One Tree Hill, or Table Top Mountain. This was part of the devastating Frontier Wars in this country. It was led, on the Aboriginal side, by the great warrior Multuggerah and part of deep, and extraordinary skilled, schemes of resistance. It is intimately connected to the continuing debilitating impact of colonial dispossession. Without remembering and reconciling, such deep wounds endure. Yet so little of this story is named or reflected upon. In contrast, on this day (25 April), the awful pain of the Gallipoli landings is recalled: often, in recent years, with exceptional noise and attention. Why is it that some stories become enduring, and even ever enlarged, myths, whilst others, no less historically significant, are hidden or left to fester? How do we best make peace with our past? And how do myths and memories of faith distract or assist?
“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?...
Today on Good Friday we affirm the infinite Love of God displayed in the crucifixion of Jesus - not as a metaphysical transaction to change God from punishing us (as if), but as a witness to the love of God for us at all times, even when we have gone astray or are caught in webs of evil. Sadly too many Christians speak of a punishing God, with disastrous spiritual and practical consequences. That is partly understandable from some past inherited thinking in Christian traditions. It is however a partial way of looking at the cross which is not only destructive but wholly unnecessary theologically.
The Franciscan tradition - not least through the great theologian John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) - is in contrast one which has always encouraged us to focus on the infinite Love of God, displayed in the cross as in all other aspects of creation and salvation. As Richard Rohr among others has recently reminded us, if God “needed” a blood sacrifice to love God’s own creation, then God was not freely loving us. For the Franciscans, 'Jesus was not changing God’s mind about us; he was changing our minds about God. If God and Jesus are not violent or vindictive, then our excuse for the same is forever taken away from us. If God is punitive and torturing however, then we have permission to do the same. Thus grew much of the church’s violent history.'
W.H.Vanstone put this beautifully in his great poem and reflection on 'Love's Endeavour, Love's Expense:
Drained is love in making full,
bound in setting others free,
poor in making many rich,
weak in giving power to be.
Therefore he who shows us God
helpless hangs upon the tree;
and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.
Here is God: no monarch he,
throned in easy state to reign;
here is God, whose arms of love
aching, spent, the world sustain.
May we know God's Love more deeply this day, and may it transform our lives for the good.
by Jo Inkpin, for Good Friday 10 April 2020
see further: Richard Rohr's reflection - A Nonviolent Atonement
If I were to ask 100 people to give me a nickname or adjective for the disciple Thomas, what do you think would be the most popular reply? I suspect it would be ‘Doubting’, don’t you? That is a shame. For there is much more to Thomas than an element of doubt. Ask any Indian Christian for example. They will tell you that Thomas was the great apostle of the ancient East, and that Indian Christianity traces its origins to him. In the very passage we have just read, we also heard Thomas confess Jesus Christ as ‘My Lord and My God’. What a powerful statement of faith! Historically many Christians have paid a great deal of attention to St Peter for saying something similar. Yet Thomas has been largely passed over. Makes you think, doesn’t it? I mean we don't go on talking about Betraying Peter do we? We might just as well do so. For Peter is manifestly more of a betrayer than Thomas is an iron-clad doubter. The fact is that Thomas is much much more than a doubter. You could even call him Affirming Thomas for that theological statement about Jesus as the Christ. However, I’d like to call Thomas something else altogether. Reflecting on today’s reading from John chapter 20, I’m inclined however to call him Bodily Thomas, or, maybe, as the Welsh might call him, Thomas the Body. For that name points us to some very important aspects of the Resurrection of Jesus…
I’ve been in two minds the last couple of days about which of the two sets of Australian Anglican lectionary readings for today to use. In the end I‘ve gone for marking the feast of the Holy Cross, for which incidentally there is no alternative in the Church of England’s lectionary for today. Does this perhaps perhaps a stronger Reformed emphasis in the Australian Anglican Church? If so, I have some sympathy. For there is a danger that the cross can become objectified, even venerated as an artefact, rather than being at the existential, metaphysical heart of Christian faith. The feast of the Holy Cross, in my view, is certainly one of those adiaphora, or non-essential, elements which are neither commanded nor proscribed by a healthy reading of holy Scripture. Yet, to that extent, it any yet assist us more deeply into the paschal mystery at the centre of our Faith. After my own theological wrestling with this, let me therefore briefly offer three, good Anglican, reasons for marking the feast today…
This morning we bring together three important aspects of our lives together: the liturgical Season of Creation which we begin this week; the witness to justice and care for Creation which has been explored in our Abundant Justice conference this weekend; and the Gospel call, which we have just heard, to follow Jesus to take up the cross and follow him. So I want to speak this morning about three connecting things: about three ‘c’s; about the cross, about change and about communion; about how the cross comes when you try to change things; about how true change is grounded in the communion of all being; and about how that communion is founded on the cross of God’s creation…
‘We believe Life before Death, do you?’ Let me say that again: ‘we believe in Life before Death.’ Do you believe that?
Quite a few years ago now, Christian Aid in the UK used those words as a way of highlighting their aid and development work. In doing so, they deliberately turned upside down a widespread, but deeply mistaken, view of the Christian Faith as a whole. For ‘we believe in Life after Death’ is a popular affirmation of Christian Faith, isn’t it? Of course, that is true also. The Love of God we trust in in Jesus Christ is indeed so strong that nothing can stop it, not even the powers of death. The Love of God into which Christians are baptised is truly eternal Love, eternal Life, extending through all time and space, and dimensions of existence. Sadly however, too many Christians become so caught up in the ‘Life after Death’ affirmation, that they neglect, or even look doubtfully, on the idea that Jesus, and Christian Faith, is also, and first and foremost, about ‘Life before Death.’ Too many people, in and outside our churches, understand Christianity in terms of getting to heaven when we die. What an amazing turning-upside down of the life and teaching of Jesus!...
As we gather today at the foot of the cross I would like to invite you to consider the holding and the beholding that happens in the story we have just heard...
There are two titles for this Sunday in the lectionary, namely Christ the King or the Reign of Christ. Which do you prefer? Think about it for a moment. Have a look too at today’s two New Testament readings (Colossians 1.11-20 and Luke 23.33-43). They also have different emphases. Which of these would you choose for preference? The answer of course is that both of these are valuable and balance one another. Yet, as with the title of this Sunday, there is a genuine tension between them and, in wrestling with this tension, we are led into a deeper understanding of God and our relationship with God and one another…
Once upon a time, the story goes, there was a court jester. For many years he was very popular with the king. The jester made him laugh and brought joy and well-being to everyone he met. That country was indeed a kingdom of joy and well-being. Then things started to go wrong in the kingdom. The king’s chief advisers, the politicians, became greedy and unjust and the people grew fearful and violent. Their humour they had became dark and cruel. The jester’s wit was no longer appreciated, especially when he spoke in ways which seemed to give comfort to the poor and marginalised. A campaign grew among the powerful to get rid of him. So the king, though he still remembered liking the jester very much, agreed to condemn him to death. To honour his past regard however, the king said that the jester could choose how he was to die. ‘For example, I could have you hung, drawn and quartered’, the king said, ‘or thrown to hungry wolves, or boiled alive, or shot at dawn by a firing squad, or, like the aristocracy, you might have your head chopped off with a silver sword. It is your choice: there are many ways. How would you like to die? You choose and I will decree it.’ So the jester thought for a brief moment and then answered, as quick as a flash: ‘ in that case, my Lord, I would choose to die..’ He paused… ‘by old age.’ And the king roared with laughter and gave the jester his wish.
Now what, you may say, has that to do with our Gospel reading this morning? Well, just this: in a sense, that jester embodied three key aspects of Jesus’ teaching - firstly, by not fearing; secondly. by not clinging to possessions or position; and thirdly, by above all remaining awake to the presence of God’s kingdom, whatever happens at any moment. For this is the gift of Jesus, the greatest spiritual Jester of our lives: the One who shares the divine laughter and the invitation to share in the true kingdom of God’s love...