|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Recently I was given a wonderful handmade doorstop. It was a gift from the main organiser of an event I spoke at in the Uniting Church’s Pilgrim College in Melbourne (see my address here and Talitha's own explanation here). We were marking the landmark first Australian university unit in Queer Theology, before the intensive which Penny and I were about to teach. As such, the doorstop was one fitting symbol of such developments, keeping open the possibilities of hearing the voice of God in contemporary culture, particularly in queer lives and spiritual experience, and enabling some of our collective old pain and exhaustions to leave and new joys and challenges to enter. It is however but one doorstop among many created by my colleague during the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns in Melbourne. For too many doors were closed at that time. Then and still now, she feels it is important to have practical symbols which keep alive horizons of hope and renew possibilities of life and relationship. In that sense, it is also perhaps one fitting pointer both to our Gospel story (Luke 10.25-38) and to the divine possibilities of Christian mission today. For, in a number of other ways, the parable of the so-called ‘Good’ Samaritan is actually quite impossible…
Many years ago, before entering ordained ministry, I worked for the probation service in England. I was an assistant house manager for a hostel for what were called ‘hard to place’ ex-offenders. ‘Hard to place’ – whom do you think that included? ...
Well, it referred both to those who had committed the most serious of crimes and to those who were liable to cause physical and reputational damage, including those who had committed arson or who might be seen by the wider community as scandalous. We had men who had committed so-called ‘minor’ offences – some of whom, to be honest, could sometimes be the most awkward residents of all. We also however sometimes had men who were on ‘life license’ for taking the lives of others. Certainly, we always had at least one man, or several, who had committed sexual offences. Perhaps that group of people were also always of the greatest underlying concern, at least in terms of risking public outcry and our own limits of hospitality. For appropriate relationships with those who have committed sexual offences is rightly vital. What then does that mean, today, for churches?...
A few weeks ago I invited us all to address the question of Jesus: ‘who do you say that I am?’ This is central to the Christian spiritual pathway. As I affirmed, the answers to that question will differ, as they have differed, subtly or significantly, down the centuries. Today, on St Luke’s Day, Penny and I want to ask three more questions, which also feed into our community visioning day. They seek to open up three important areas of life: firstly, healing; secondly, hospitality; and thirdly, how do we hand on hope, as we experience it in our spiritual lives. Penny and I will do this together as a conversation. For, after all, isn’t one of the most beautiful stories in Luke’s Gospel that of the conversation between the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as they rediscover the living Christ in new ways?
Before all that however, I want to ask Penny about our relationship to St Luke. For we’ve had a bit of history with St Luke, haven’t we?...
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?...