What is God’s work on earth and how do we participate in it? These seem to me questions that arise from our reading today - a reading that begins with Jesus appearance to his disciples, and ends with Him sending them out as witnesses to the work of repentance and forgiveness that is to be proclaimed to all nations...
One of the strangest requests I received when I was General Secretary of the NSW Ecumenical Council was from the NSW Greens. They were trying to remove the saying of the Lord's Prayer from the opening of NSW Parliament and wanted support on the grounds that the 'Protestant' form used, with the doxology at the end, was excluding of Catholics, as well as of other faith groups. I did not have to contact the then Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell, or Jewish, Muslim, or other leaders to know how ridiculous they would have found the argument. For what mattered to all of them was not so much the exact words as the setting of public life in the context of the sacred and transcendent. I was reminded of this at this time of year in more recent times in being involved in planning the annual civic Remembrance Service at St Luke's Toowoomba. Some of the older and more conservative figures would insist on the inclusion of what they called the 'traditional' English-speaking version of the Lord's Prayer whilst others would support the 'modern' form which has been used for many years in Australian churches. Do the words really matter however or is the real substance of the prayer the key?...
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…
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?...
I want to speak about three things which jump out from our Gospel reading today. I want to speak about fish, faith and forgiveness: about how fish flow out from faith; about how faith flows from forgiveness; and about how forgiveness flows from being a fish. First of all however, let me ask a question: where do you picture today’s Gospel story happening? What kind of a boat is it that sets out fishing? What do the people in the boat and on the shore look like? And what does the beach look like to you? Let us close our eyes for a moment and see if we can picture those elements of our story in our mind’s eye. Maybe we can also hear the sounds, and the smells, of the beach and the sea, the movement of the boat and the waves, the crackle of the fire, the voices of Jesus and the disciples. Let us stop for a moment and try to see, and feel…
I have a good friend called Peter Millar who was recently diagnosed with bone cancer. Some of you may remember him, for he visited Toowoomba a few years ago and he is quite a tour de force! Some of you may also know him from his writings. For Peter Millar is a leading member of the Iona Community in Scotland and a former Warden of Iona Abbey and he has contributed prolifically to sharing contemporary faith and engaged spirituality through many books, articles, poems and prayers. Like many contemporary Celtic Christians, he has also woven together a deep life of prayer and faith with commitment to building community locally and across the world, especially with the poor and the marginalised, and the struggles of the wider environment. Most of all, I think, Peter is an amazing person and model of encouragement for so many people, So it is particularly sad to see such personal struggles afflict such a spiritual live-wire, aflame with the love of God. Yet perhaps this is where, as in the sufferings and cross of Jesus, the love of God really comes alive and shines forth its truth….
by Jon Inkpin for Easter Sunday, 2015
I would like to ask three leading questions this morning.
The first question is: Does anyone here have a garden?...
What does it look like? What do you do with it?
Do you realise we have a special garden – called a Quiet Garden – at St Mark’s? You might like to check it out sometime…
Gardens are so often a delight, aren’t they? – not least in this ‘Garden City’ of Toowoomba.
My second leading question is: Have you ever done anything wrong, or had something done to you, which was wrong, and which maybe made you feel bad or ashamed?... All of us I suspect!
Have you ever felt afraid, or suspicious too? Have you ever felt betrayed, or been betrayed?
Again, all of us experience these things, don’t we?
This part of what Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, is all about, isn’t it? - facing up to our sin and shame, our fear, suspicion and betrayals. So what then is Easter about? – and what has it to do with a garden? The answer is: a whole heap of beans, running over and flowing everywhere! When we see that our whole life is transformed, just like Mary Magdalene in our Gospel reading today: which leads to my third, and the most important, leading question of all in a moment…
by Penny Jones, for Good Friday 2015
They crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
When we think of Jesus hanging there on the cross, I think the picture that most often comes to mind is the classic icon of the crucifixion, with the body of Jesus flanked by Mary and John – his mother and his most faithful disciple. It is the picture of course from the Gospel of John, which tells how Jesus gives His mother and His friend into one another’s care. Iconographers chose that image because it allowed them to place three holy figures, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John in the one composition. As viewers we are drawn into this holy triad of figures, mutually supporting one another around the cross that brings salvation to the world. It is, like John’s gospel as a whole, an expression of the glorification of Christ on the cross. While it challenges our faithfulness, our ability like Mary and John to dwell with and in Christ in His moment of greatest need and greatest triumph, it does not fundamentally unsettle a view of the world in which good triumphs and evil is punished.
It is a picture very different from that which we just heard in the gospel of Luke. Throughout his gospel Luke tells of a God who, like the father in the story of the prodigal son, does not wait for reparation, does not demand punishment, but overwhelms his wayward child with love and forgiveness, no matter what. So here, as Jesus is nailed to the cross, he prays, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” They do not know what they are doing’...
by Penny Jones for Advent 2 year B
It gave me great joy yesterday to see everything so green after the rain. I am sure we are all taking delight in the clean fresh scent and the signs of new life. It would not be too fanciful I think to say that our bit of the world has been ‘baptised’ over the last few days.
The great medieval Christian mystic Hildegaard of Bingen coined a particular word for such ‘greening ‘ of the earth. She called it ‘veriditas’, from the Latin word for green. For her it best described the first shoots of green leaves poking through the white snow after a long winter in her native Europe. It was the sign of new life. And so too for us, as rain restores life to our parched land we see fresh potential for life in the renewed greenness of our land.
When we think about baptism and the ministry of John the Baptist which we recall today, veriditas, the ‘greening’, is a good picture to have in our minds. It is a picture that works at many levels. It describes the ‘greening’ of the outer world, the created order on which we rely for daily life. It describes the ‘greening’ of our inner world, the work of God in our individual souls. And it describes as well the transformative work of the Holy Spirit within our society and wider political systems...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,