- Oh my: it’s to be hoped they were all at 1.5metres distance and wearing masks!...
“He breathed on them and said, ’Receive the Holy Spirit’”
- Oh my: it’s to be hoped they were all at 1.5metres distance and wearing masks!...
I have been thinking about what it means to be an advocate. The word comes from the law courts and literally means to ‘add a voice to’ – referring to those who would speak and add their testimony on behalf of a defendant. In Latin behind that word is the word vocare – to call or summon, from which we derive our word vocation.
It seems to me that advocacy is a core charism and calling here at Milton Anglican. We have for example accepted the call to add our voice to that of the homeless in our area; to allow the voices of those traumatised by their years of war service especially in Afghanistan to be heard; to encourage the voices of creative people especially artists to emerge; to recognize the voices and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and to add our voices to those of the Rainbow community, creating safe space where all can be affirmed and heard.
Today is IDAHOBIT – the International Day against homophobia, bi-phobia, inter-phobia and transphobia. In the thirty years since its inception much advocacy has occurred – not all of it well received in society and especially not in church. Yet God in Christ continues to give us the Spirit of truth to guide us and encourage us. Receiving that Spirit in an ongoing way however makes demands of us as individuals and as church. Three demands in particular strike me as key – the demand of compassion, the demand of courage and the demand of contemplation.
Without compassion – the capacity to place ourselves in the shoes of the other and suffer with them, not merely alongside them – advocacy becomes sterile. Metaphorically there is no room for social distance in compassion. The issue of the other person becomes my issue and I fight for them as I would for my own life.
This requires courage. We cannot then hide behind claims of ignorance, lack of information or fear of consequences. We are called to step up and stand with those who are most vulnerable. In doing so we can claim for ourselves only the promise of Jesus, ‘I will not leave you orphaned’ – or in the beautiful translation of the authorized version, ‘comfortless.’ We shall not be comfortless – but nor shall we be comfortable, for such courageous advocacy is costly.
In order to risk and pay that cost, we need to embrace the demand of contemplation. When our words and actions arise from the deep place of contemplation they carry authority and power. Jesus said, ‘You know him, because he abides with you and he will be in you’. We need to get to know the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. In time spent apart, we need to allow that Spirit into every crevice of our being, stripping us of ego and filling us with love. It is not a path for the faint hearted. But it is the path of love, and of life.
So, may we in contemplation seek the gifts of compassion and courage, and may we continue to respond to our call as individuals and as a parish to add our voices to those whom others seek to ignore or silence. In the name of Christ our Advocate. Amen.
Penny Jones, for Sunday 17 May, 6th Sunday of Easter
Over the last few weeks I have had the wonderful, if challenging, experience of sharing in leading the God, Humanity and Difference course at St Francis’ College. This has included looking at a wide range of human differences: including those of race, disability, gender, sexuality, faith, culture, history, and socio-economic position. We have heard from a variety of voices from across our Church and world: including Canon Bruce Boase (as an Aboriginal priest, as we explored Reconciliation issues) and, not least, Elizabeth and Ann from our very own congregation here (as we explored faith issues related to disability). In addition, we have been blessed by the insights of the rich mix of backgrounds and experiences within the class itself, including students originally from Sudan and Korea. Sometimes this has meant that we have met fresh questions and ideas which will require some working out. For our God-given human differences are not always easy for us all to live with. We can see that clearly in some of the conflicts and controversies of our Church and world today. Yet, as we have discovered in our course this semester, if we hold them prayerfully, and work with them with intelligence and compassion, they are powerful gifts to us for healing, new life, and flourishing together. For properly to hear each of us, speaking our own witness to God in our own way, is to let the Holy Spirit fly free in fresh experiences of Pentecost…
I love being trans. How about you? No, I am not so much speaking about being transgender, as about simply being human, or at least a Christian variety thereof: in other words, about being a person who is transfiguring. That is each and every one of us. This is not to downplay the significance of someone being transgender, or otherwise. After all, we still have some way to go in working through that. The particularity of each of our human lives really matters. Each transgender life and story is also unique: a special creation in God’s love. Yet, the more I reflect upon it, in a powerful sense, in the divine economy, being transgender is also a way of helping us all recognise that each of us is continually invited to embrace transfiguration. For, as human beings, as Christians, we are never fixtures but loved works in process. What we shall be is not what we are now. All that is loving in our past and present is indeed taken up into what we shall be. In the glory of God however, we are, and will be, so much than we can ever imagine. This is part of the gift of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ which we celebrate today…
Today's Gospel (John 3.31-36) appears very abruptly in the text of John's Gospel. Indeed some commentators have even considered whether they are words of John the Baptist. For he has just been speaking and there is no change of speaker indicated. Yet they seem to me all of a part with the Johannine figure of Christ and its high christology Key themes of the Gospel are indeed included in it. Let me turn to them in a moment. Firstly however, as Penny observed, at yesterday's eucharist, about an earlier passage in this same chapter 3 of John, these words clearly come from a context of conflict...
I wonder how many of us love the story of Mary Poppins? When one of my daughters was young, Mary Poppins the musical was her favourite film. I also once stayed for a week, in a hard-pressed northern English mining village, with a loving old couple for whom Mary Poppins was a great blessing. The old woman had had a stroke and was bed-bound. Every day however she would watch Mary Poppins and the magic of love and life came back into her soul and that of her husband. Mary Poppins, like all great stories which touch our hearts and souls, can have that effect. It shares and nurtures what we might call ‘the wind of the Spirit’. This, the Holy Spirit of God, is profoundly transformative, as we hear powerfully today in one of the greatest promises of revelation in the words of the prophet Joel…
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘jihad’ I wonder? For many people the word ‘jihad’ conjures up images of conflagration, disturbance and violence, doesn’t it? Across the world today, there is certainly a very small minority of Muslims who not only think in that way but who actively seek to inflict such images on others and use them to oppress and destroy. The consequence is appalling violence in many places. Of course, that is a hideous betrayal of what mainstream Islam has always understood ‘jihad’ to be. Yes, it has meant active struggle, even active violent struggle, if absolutely necessary, for truth and justice. Yet above all, it means ‘struggling, striving, applying oneself, persevering’ in the way of God. This may mean active, outer, physical struggle (usually nonviolently), but the ‘greater jihad’, as it is has been termed, is the inner, spiritual, struggle of human beings to live in relationship with God. In which case, this, to some degree, is not so far from Christian ideas of what we call ‘discipleship’ or ‘the way of Jesus’. For ‘discipleship’, or ‘the way of following Jesus’ is also a way of struggle: an inner, spiritual, struggle to grow in relationship to God, and an outer, active, struggle to help realise God’s truth and justice in the world. If we see that, then we may be able to understand the challenging words of Jesus in today’s Gospel as a call not to destructive conflict, but to a ‘jihad’, or sacred struggle, for compassion and ultimate healing of our broken lives and world…
When does a Christian become a Christian? That might seem like a silly question, but no. In fact, it helps explain quite a number of differences between those who have called themselves Christian, today and in the past. We can also tell a good deal about a person by their answer to that question, for it contains a variety of assumptions about God and God’s relationship to us as individuals, as people together, and as a world.
When does a Christian become a Christian? For simplicity, let me offer four possibilities. Which option, or combination of options, makes best sense to you?...
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...
by Jon Inkpin for Advent Sunday 2014
Keep awake – keep alert – again and again we hear this message repeated in the Gospels, especially around this Advent season. Keep awake: like an alarm clock, this message challenges us to rise from our slumbers and get living. It calls on us to open our eyes, open our ears, and open our hearts, to the love of God coming afresh in, and among and beyond us. What a vital message this is for a Christian new year, as well as a preparation for Christmas. Are we awake? Are we alert? Are we expecting God to live and grow and come to birth in and among us?
In many ways, the best response to the Advent challenge is that which we see in Mary, the mother of Jesus. That is why we have taken Mary’s song, the Magnificat, as our Advent theme this year. ‘Give Thanks – Give Life’: that is the refrain. For giving thanks and giving life are two major elements of Mary’s song, the Magnificat, which we also can share in. Just as Mary gives thanks for the Holy Spirit whom she sees and hears God in and around her, so we too can open our eyes and ears to that same Spirit among us. Just as Mary opened her heart, and her very being, to the love and power of God, so we too can open our hearts, and our very selves, to the love of God in Christ Jesus. Giving thanks and giving life: these things can be symbolised or embodied in ordinary Christmas presents. Yet they are most fully embodied in the giving of of our whole human lives…
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,