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’?...
Have you ever thought about how truly ‘queer’ in the best sense, Christmas is? Angels and shepherds, wise people of dodgy backgrounds with very odd gifts; a baby (but apparently one that according to the carol doesn’t cry!) and an unmarried mum giving birth in a hay barn – to say nothing of God sprinkling glitter across the sky in the form of stars and skies full of glory. It is all frankly very surprising, and really a bit queer.
And this is the point isn’t it? - that God, God always does the surprising thing, not the boring thing! God always turns the world upside down and showers blessings in unexpected places. God makes Godself flesh, incarnate, in some very unlikely ways.
Who likes tests? When I was at junior school I did – that was because I was a smarty pants and enjoyed getting all, or at least most, of the answers right. I even enjoyed testing myself. I was probably really annoying to some of my peers! Time goes by though and the tests get a little more exacting and sometimes even scary. Academic tests are one thing – or even exams in music or dance – but life throws tests at us that we had not expected and for which it is much harder to prepare – sickness, unemployment, the break -down of relationships. These test our character and the strength of our relationship with God.
One of the meanings of the word temptation which appears in our reading today is ‘testing’. But just what is being put to the test and why?
Most of us probably know the old saying about some of the great Australian metropolitan cities: in Sydney, it is said, they ask ‘how much money do you have?’; in Melbourne, they ask ‘which school did you go to?’; in Adelaide, they ask ‘which church do you attend?’; and in Perth, they ask ‘so what did you come here to get away from?’ There is some truth in that even today. What then, I wonder, would be the question we would ask in Toowoomba? My hope is we would ask ‘what gifts do you have to enrich our world?’ This question is certainly at the heart of Jesus’ good news and behind today's Gospel passage about the nature of divine table fellowship. It is assuredly a great question for us on our parish thanksgiving weekend…
The traditional patterns of the Christian season of Advent are difficult to maintain in our contemporary Australian culture. Yet its themes of hope, peace, joy and love are as essential as they have ever been. They bring us back to the heart of biblical faith and its meaning for us all. In a real sense they are the true gifts of what we receive at Christmas. This is certainly true of today’s gift – that of hope – so vital for our times. For when we look at our world it can be easy to feel despair. There are also plenty of people ready to play on our fears and anxieties: cynics and doomsayers who suggest that the conflicts we see are only going to get worse and that there is little cause for hope. Yet there is nothing new in this. Our gospel reading today was written in just such a time of fear and anxiety and it invites us above all to wake up and to pay attention to the things of God, when we find ourselves in times that promote fear…
Just before Christmas we had a wonderful gathering in St Luke’s, of many faiths and none. It was a time of remembrance and prayer for those who had been killed and traumatised by recent events, including the Sydney siege and the massacre of children in Pakistan. It was a time of reaffirmation and deepened solidarity as we renewed our city commitment to peace and harmony. It was a time which showed we have something very special here in Toowoomba. For so many places in the world would be amazed that Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Baha’is, and so many others, can not only live together peacefully but even appreciate one another and share their distinctive gifts. That should not seem unusual. Yet it is. We should therefore celebrate and build upon it. For, in a deep sense, as we hear today’s Epiphany Gospel, we are perhaps thereby 'a Church of the Magi’…
by Jon Inkpin for Sunday 16 November 2014
There are, sadly, many reasons why I dislike the current owner of Newcastle United Football Club. Sometimes it seems as if he deliberately seeks to offend. Maybe it is too easy. After all, Newcastle United fans are among the most passionate you will ever find. We tend to wear out hearts on our sleeves and, consequently, we suffer the consequences when we are abused. Of everything Mike Ashley has done however, the most offensive, for me, is the selling of of the Newcastle shirt. For Wonga, the main sponsor’s name on the shirt, is the name of a British payday loan company: a moneylender, which, to be quite blunt, rips off the poor. Wonga has thus often wreaked havoc in the lives of many people in Newcastle upon Tyne and its surrounding area, the poorest region of England. As a ‘short-term, high-cost credit’ moneylender, Wonga indeed quickly became a by-word for exploitation. Its interest charged can sometimes equate to an annual percentage rate of more than 5000%. For this reason, not for nothing did the Archbishop of Canterbury not so long ago launch an Anglican campaign against such moneylenders, offering Church of England facilities to community-organised credit unions as a constructive alternative. In doing so, Justin Welby was following the example of Jesus, and, arguably, though perhaps surprisingly to some, embodying the parable we have just heard. For he was addressing the great, usually forgotten, sin of usury: a vital issue for us all, not least at this time of the G20 meeting in Brisbane…
by Jon Inkpin, for Land Sunday, 14 September 2014
I wonder if you know Peter Sartsedt’s song ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely?’ Written and released in 1969, it is about a fictional girl called Marie-Claire who becomes a member of the ‘jet set’, the fashionable celebrities of the late 1960s. Her life is full of show and excitement. Underneath however there is another reality. For her story is told from the point of view of a childhood friend who, after recounting all the amazing places Marie-Claire goes to, asks: ‘but where do you go to my lovely, when you’re asleep in your bed? Tell me the thoughts that surround you.’ Then, in the last verse of the song, the secret is revealed. Marie-Claire comes from poverty, ‘from the backstreets of Naples’ and her current life is both a welcome release and a desperate escape from that reality, full of continued scars and regret. For what we are, as people, is shaped by the realities of the places in which we are formed and raised. Only when we come to terms with those realities, their promise and their pain, are we truly set free. This is at the heart of today’s readings as we reflect upon God in the Land. For where do you go to, where do I go to, where do we go to, when we are asleep in our beds? What has our experience of land, of particular places, done for, and to, us? How does land and place shape our lives today?...
for Pentecost 4, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Sunday, 13 July 2014 by Jon Inkpin
Are you a dancer? Do you ever go to a dance group, or watch dance? Have you ever been a dancer? – I don’t mean professionally, or even as a hobby, just: have you ever danced? You know, I reckon all of us have danced, at least once, and more than once, even if we have forgotten, or chosen to forget, about it. Think about it: all little children dance. Put on a piece of music, or just watch a little child moving about: he or she is full of natural dance and movement. For dancing is a very natural part of what it is to be human. Indeed, it is a natural, and even integral, part of what it is to be alive. For the whole creation is really, actually, a dance: a dance of all the elements of creation; in, and with, the glory of our dancing God. I hope that doesn’t seem like a shocking affirmation. If it does, then blame Jesus in our Gospel reading today. What is he saying? – why: let go of your burdens and dance with me. So, will we dance?...