|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Three things immediately struck me in recently moving back to work again in the centre of Sydney. Firstly, so many of the high buildings had either grown even higher or had multiplied in number. Secondly, particularly in the adjacent areas north and west of Pitt Street Uniting Church, different Asian shops and cultures continue to grow in number. An official Koreatown now sits close to Chinatown, and other presences, including Malaysian, and particularly Thai, are not far behind. Thirdly, in the suburb where I live, each park has an acknowledgement of country, including the prominent words Budyeri gamarruwa – ‘welcome’ in Gadigal language. Each of these things are redolent to me of both the challenges, and the promise, of Pentecost today. For if we are to receive the Spirit of God more fully - replacing hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, and becoming one body in this land - these are part of the journey we make…
It has been a rather terrifying and depressing week in both church and wider world. So, what ‘good news’ do our scriptures offer us today? A curious little parable about a fig tree. Can this help us? I think it can. Let’s suppose that the fig tree is us, and the gardener is God in Christ. The question then becomes ‘are we – humanity - willing to let Christ dig around our roots and put in some manure?’ Are we willing to be ‘done to’, or would we rather persist in the arrogant and clearly dangerous view that we can fix ourselves?
St. Augustine pointed to the humility of Christ the gardener, who is not afraid to get their hands dirty; to use earthy matter, manure to bring fruitfulness. This is a very helpful corrective to views of God in Christ that suggest a heavenly being of little earthly use. In times like this we need a God who can get down into the mess of life with us and help us with the stuff that is really difficult, from terrorism to child abuse...
The Transfiguration - as Joseph Pagano has described it “three holy heavyweights hold a summit meeting on the ways God will fulfil God’s promises through the death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus”. It is not heralded with the pomp and ceremony of Trump meeting Kim Jong Un. But the outcomes are life changing for all of us.
Peter, James and John nearly sleep through it all – a foreshadowing of course of their inability to stay awake in the garden of Gethsemane. Whether it is the glory of God or the agony, the joy or the pain, we mere humans are inclined to choose sleep over wakefulness, because being awake asks so much. But never perhaps in the church’s history has it been so imperative that we keep awake to what God is doing and to refuse to shut god up in boxes and booths of our own making...
One of the names I was given when I was born was Francis, in its masculine form. So, over several years, I pondered it. well.Today it is not one of my legal names. However it is still very valuable to me. According to the dictionary it means, particularly in its Latin form ‘Frenchman’, which is a lovely little challenge of inclusion for some of us brought up with centuries of conflict and xenophobia between England and France. In its Teutonic, and American usage, it also however means ‘Free’, which seems particularly life-giving to me, and certainly one beautiful way of considering our little brother Francesco, St Francis, the patron site of this college and its site. So what are the features of this freedom which Francesco lived and encourages in us? What difference may walking with St Francis make to us and our world today?...
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’…