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’?...
Some of you know that this week Jo and I have been lucky enough to have our three grandchildren to stay, aged six weeks, eleven weeks and two. It has been, to say the least, a lively household. I mentioned to one of my daughters the theme for tonight, and she jokingly said, ‘That’s excellent – I’ll bring the children along then shall I?!’ You can all relax, because she was joking. But it set me to thinking, what do rest and stillness really mean for us, for they have to mean more than just ‘me’ time, away from the busyness of our ‘real’ life...
a reflection for Midsumma (Melbourne LGBTI+) Festival, on the feast of Brigid & Darlughdach
First of all, may I thank you for the invitation to speak today, and, as an incomer, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land: the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging. Our struggles and joys are bound together.
A ‘queer’ saint?
Is Brigid a queer saint, do you think? I don’t just mean as a likely LGBTI+ sacred forebear, but in the sense of being a figure who challenges and transforms our conceptions and ideas of holiness. Of course the word ‘queer’ is highly contested, and also disliked, for good reasons, among some sexually and gender diverse people. Yet among the broad range of its meaning, ‘queer’ does, I think, have its value. As we meet on the feast of Saint Brigid, it is certainly one way into reflecting on what she has to say to us as we celebrate Midsumma Festival, and the lives and contributions of sexually and gender diverse people. For, on the most obvious level, it is certainly apposite to remark on Brigid and her relationship with her intimate companion Darlughdach, with whom she shares this saint’s day, as she shared so much of her life, including her bed. Whilst so much about Brigid is cast about with legend, it seems reasonable to me therefore to place her, and Darlughdach, high in the pantheon of LGBTI+ Christian saints. Even if some might contest that however, Brigid undoubtedly offers us distinctive, transgressive, and mysterious paths into life and God: vital and vibrant queer ways, into holiness and transformation…
‘There was an ancient music on the earth before humans ever came here. Imagine what the first music of the wind was like when the earth was born out of nothing. Imagine the wind being released for the first time, and finding itself running into silver mountains, dark mountains, skimming over boiling oceans. And if you enter into the dream which brought you here, and awaken its beauty in you, then the beauty will gradually awaken all around you.’
- so begins the introduction to the film ‘Celtic Pilgrimage’ which shares much of John O’Donohue’s life and work. And, in a way, like many of his sayings, those gorgeously fashioned few words alone might really be enough for us to ponder tonight. For the heart of much of his insight and encouragement to live is contained in them: the vitality of creation and the landscape; the call to imagination and to enter into the dreams of our life; and the centrality of beauty and of wonder. John O’Donohue’s life and work was an invitation and example of how to attend to such presence and to travel as adventurous pilgrims into them…
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?...
Penny Jones for Lent 1: Mark 1:9-15
We are at the beginning of Lent – that annual opportunity to celebrate the heart of our Christian faith. For Christianity is always about beginning again. Our faith encourages us to believe in the possibility of the second chance; of a new start right now. No matter how many times we have gone wrong in the past or will go wrong in the future; no matter how old or how young we are, the Christian gospel is always encouraging us to trust that we can begin again.
So in these forty days we are encouraged to keep the fast in three ways– by abstaining , whether from food, drink, Facebook, TV, excessive work or whatever our soul most needs; by engaging more deeply in prayer, whether at home, or in a study group, or by journallng or walking or whatever most noursihes in us the longing for God; and by committing to the giving of alms – some charitable giving beyond our usual commitments. These three things, fasting, prayer and almsgiving form the heart of this time, and are the means by which we prepare ourselves for the great festival of Easter.
We begin all these things this week...
Jon Inkpin for Midnight Mass, Christmas Eve 2014
Who among us, I wonder, is afraid of the dark?…
All of us I suspect. For if we are not afraid of actual physical darkness, then we are prone to fear the darkness of so much in our world, and in ourselves: the darkness of the unknown, the darkness of loss and separation, the darkness of pain, the darkness of death. So as we gather here today, we bring such darkness with us and we also share the darkness of our wider world.
Christmas, of course, like Easter, begins in darkness, which is why we perhaps spend so much time trying to avoid that darkness: putting up lights etc, which, wonderful though they are, can be but veils over our sadness, our separations and our sufferings…
Lent 3A, Sunday 23 March 2014 by Penny Jones
The marvellous Celtic poet and mystic John O'Donohue described faith as 'the absolutely irresistible longing for God'. This is why Jesus in today's gospel describes himself as 'living water'. For every human being on this watery blue planet of ours has an irresistible longing for water. We literally cannot live without it. Indeed almost all of our bodies is made up of water. The longing and thirst for water is more desperate than the longing for food, or sex or companionship or home. Thirst is an elemental, irresistible longing. We need water. And not just physical water.
Moses led the people out into the wilderness and they became thirsty. There was no water for them to drink. So of course they complained. In that barren place they experienced their need, their dependence on God. And through Moses, God satisﬁed their physical need, striking water from the rock so that they could drink.
The experience of wilderness, of longing and thirst is essential to our mature spiritual growth...