|Pen and Ink Reflections||
My wife Penny and I met at theological college. It was certainly not love at first sight. I was quite introverted, not trying to give away much of who I was, and Penny – well, Penny was very nervous and came across as a terrible caricature of an English middle-class blue stocking type of woman: think, those of you who can remember back that far, of Joyce Grenfell in the old St Trinian’s films. Our college was overwhelmingly full of men, with this being only the second year a handful of women had been admitted. So, when I met Penny in the first hour or so after arriving, I thought: ‘well, if this is how the women are here, I am simply not going to survive!’ I guess that was one factor in our initial relationship: sheer survival in an age and culture still trying to come to terms with the equality of women as a whole, never mind wider gender diversity. It was an earlier reminder that, if Penny and I were to minister, it would be as salt. We would be adding fresh flavour to both the Church and the wider world, seeking to provide healing or simply preservation for some of us, and, from time to time, perhaps irritating others into whose wounds we might be placed to aid healing. Maybe some will have views on how well, or otherwise, we have done that so far. Our hope and prayer is, in the words of Jesus in our Gospel reading today, that we, with others, will never lose out saltiness…
What do you think makes for a great political slogan? Whatever you think about him, I think Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ was pretty effective. Other catchy slogans which have famously worked well in the USA have been Lyndon Johnson’s ‘All the Way with LBJ’, Bill Clinton’s ‘Its the Economy stupid’, and the clever response to Barry Goldwater’s ‘In your heart, you know he’s right’ which was ‘In your guts, you know he’s nuts’. In the UK, the one slogan everyone remembers was Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Labout isn’t working’. What about Australia? My guess is that Whitlam’s ‘Its Time’ has probably been the most effective, with ‘Kevin 07’ perhaps a catchy runner-up as most recently memorable. It is hardly a new phenomenon of course. Leaders were coining political slogans from ancient times, not least the Roman Emperors. So too with Jesus. For, whilst Jesus’ proclamation – his evangelion, his ‘gospel’ - was much more than political, as we hear it again in today’s reading, it most certainly had its political dimension. It is something important that we can easily miss with the passing of time…
The other day Penny had a little challenge. We had been invited to a wedding reception by one of the leaders of our local Muslim community. What a joy, and what a delightful sign of Muslim friendship in Toowoomba and our growing relationships. What, however, to wear? Penny had not been to a Muslim wedding reception before and was concerned not to offend. With a bit of guidance from others, a solution was found, involving, most importantly, the covering of bare arms. It was a lovely occasion.
Such attention to the outlooks and habits of others is hardly new. We simply could not survive, as a society, if we did not take time to consider the customs and concerns of others. It is a difficult task at times. How do we balance respect and liberty? Recent events in France for instance challenge us to reflect upon how we balance, on the one hand, the healthy right of free speech and, on the other hand, expression with care not to offend unnecessarily. Banning critical comment or cartoons about religious matters is not, I think, a good way forward. Yet unbridled license to say anything, about anyone and anything, can be deeply offensive and destructive. Our Federal Attorney General George Brandis has said that, in Australia, we should preserve the right of someone to be a bigot. This is not illegal. Yet, I would say, if we have the right to be a bigot, we also have a responsibility, morally and socially, not to be a bigot. For this is not just about reducing the potential for harm. It is also about increasing the opportunities for growth in relationship, at all levels. This is at the heart of St Paul’s teaching about sharing the gospel in today’s second reading…
sermon by Jonathan Inkpin for Pentecost 5, Sunday 13 July 2014
Sometimes the names we are used to calling things keep us from seeing their full value. This is certainly the case with Jesus’ teaching. A few years ago for instance, in some Christian quarters, we stopped referring to one of the Jesus’ great stories as simply ‘the Parable of the Prodigal Son’. It had become too predictable and limiting. Instead we also started referring to it as ‘the Parable of the Father’s Love’ and the Parable of the Two Sons’ as we started noticing other features in the story which are very life-giving. I suspect it is the same with the story Jesus tells in today’s Gospel reading. Maybe we should look at the so-called ‘Parable of the Sower’ in other ways, if we want to hear more of what God is saying to us through it.
Here are three suggestions…
for Trinity Sunday 15 June 2014 by Jon Inkpin and Penny Jones
What kind of heretics are we? I sometimes ponder this question when Trinity Sunday comes around. Like the early church theologian Basil the Great, I suspect that whenever we speak of God we are risking heresy. For though we can know aspects of the energies of God, none of us know God in God-self. This because the doctrine of God as Holy Trinity is a proclamation of what is vital in our shared Christian Faith. Yet it is also an invitation to humility in the face of God’s indescribable mystery. As human beings we can, and often should, speak of our experience of God. At our very best however, we are little more than small children dipping out toes into the astonishing ocean of God’s love. We see so little and what we do see is very partial. We must humble ourselves to know more of the fullness of God. Sadly Christians are not always so humble. We have thus often ended up fighting over the very thing – God – which can bring us together. Can we do better?...