invited to praise and joy
Our Gospel readings this week and next relate to what has traditionally been termed ‘the call’ of Jesus. Like the often very institutional church calls to ‘mission’, about which I spoke a fortnight ago, this call can often be interpreted quite narrowly, even oppressively. Indeed, it has sometimes been treated as a demand. Yet, in reality, as we see in both this week and next week’s Gospel’s reading, the call of Jesus is not so much a demand as an invitation. It seeks, as I said a fortnight ago, to draw us not drive us: to draw us into divine love and new life, not drive us into anything else, however admirable. For note well Jesus’ specific words in today’s reading from John’s Gospel: ‘come and see’. Like the words ‘follow me’ in Matthew’s Gospel next week, whilst Jesus invites, there is no compulsion. Nor is particular direction or content provided, although the Gospel record provides us early Christian understandings. Rather the invitation is primarily to an adventure of faith and experience. There is no requirement of belief as such, though that might emerge to give expression to the experience of the journey. There is no clear timetable, shape or schedule, or obvious destination. Jesus simply calls on those who will to set out on a shared pathway, walking together in trust. Is that how we see faith today?...
I want to begin by inviting you to look up - Look – here! at this trinity of angels, symbolising Courage, Compassion and Joy. Jyllie Jackson, the artist who with her team created them, saw these as qualities particularly embodied – incarnated indeed – here in our community at Pitt St Uniting Church. Those of us who worship here regularly – can we see ourselves I wonder? It is hard sometimes to see ourselves as others see us! And those of you visiting here today – I wonder what aspects of yourselves you see here in our angels? For they are icons of incarnation...
breaking and birthing
Courage - Compassion – Joy: these are the name of the angels we have, above us, this evening. Courage – Compassion – Joy: gifts of grace which our church community, with others, seeks to share at World Pride here in Sydney next year, and at all times. For Courage – Compassion – Joy: which of these, I wonder, do each of us need at this time, for ourselves, or for others? May these gifts truly enrich us, for they take us to the heart of our celebrations this evening: the very presence of God in humanity, in human birthing. As such, they are pointers to the deepest reality of our lives. As we see the angels above us, see and share light among us, and, above all, see and share bread and wine – the symbols of divine humanity in us – so may we know God’s extraordinary Love, within and beyond us. For the various elements of our Christmas celebration proclaim that, as above, so below and all around, between, and in all possible dimensions, the God of Love is born among us. Tonight, in the great Christian narrative, is the hinge of history, the heart of meaning, and the hallowing of human being. Let me briefly touch on three elements. For the Christian Christmas is a truly extra-ordinary happening, and a profound embodying, which is also ‘not quite nice’…
blooming with justice and joy
Christmas-time is so often a confluence of loss and gain. So many of us find that good and tough memories are tangled up. My parents died a year ago this weekend, just as a new child was conceived in my immediate family: a child who will therefore be a new gift among us this Christmas. Yet it is hardly the first time that death and birthing have been entwined. Reflecting on that helps me better understand today’s Gospel and not least Mary’s extraordinary cry of justice, and of joy. As Alla Renee Bozarth brilliantly expresses it in her poem Annunciation, it is a cry of subversive angelic power. No wonder the three large ‘queer’ angels we will shortly welcome from Lismore’s LIghtnUp project are entitled Courage, Compassion, and Joy. For, as Lismore’s wonderful community artist Jyllie Jackson has identified, Courage, Compassion and Joy are core life-giving elements, not only to Queer Pride. They also, vitally, flow out of the Gospel and Magnificat of Mary, and, as Jyllie suggests to us, they are at the core of what the Way of Jesus, and our particular community, is and can be…
It is one of those lovely quiz questions, isn’t it – what do Barbados, Romania, the Ukraine and Scotland have in common? The answer is St Andrew of course, as their shared patron saint. In this COVID-19 year, that is something for which it is particularly important to wonder and give thanks. For in recent months we have, as a world together, been both divided by border closures, and united in suffering. On this Advent Sunday therefore, it is good to be reminded of our even greater connections in the immense hope to which St Andrew responded and shared with others. For Andrew’s witness is not least to the central importance of relationships, with God in Jesus Christ, with one another, and with the wider world. Today, as we celebrate the feast of St Andrew, and Advent hope, it is into such mission into which we too are called, and the joy which lies in such relational hope, beyond all the divisions and sufferings of our lives and world. Thus St Andrew should empower us to trust, and find new life, across our human borders and in the borderlands of suffering and joy, despair and hope…
The Freedom of Francesco
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?...
As so often when we come to a saint even of national significance like David, the preacher finds themselves saying, ‘we really do not know very much about them, and what we do know seems to be the stuff of legends’. So indeed we know very little for certain about St. David. He was born in 520 and legend has it that his mother was a nun, who was raped by one of the local princes and David was the consequence. Not a particularly auspicious beginning. However the faith of his mother seems to have communicated itself to David, who lived the life of simple monk, eating sparsely, often just leeks, bread and water, and never touching alcohol, which earned him the title the ‘waterman’ as he drank just water...
bread and roses - the song of Mary
As you may be aware, there is a tradition in more Catholic Christian circles of using rose pink as a colour for this Sunday. For the third Sunday of Advent has often been known as “Gaudete’ – or ‘Rejoice’ – Sunday, and rose pink, became linked to it, as rose pink is also associated with Mary the Mother of Jesus. So, being a bit into colours at the moment, especially pink ones, I thought I’d do a little investigation into the subject. The first thing I came across was the Readers Digest guide to rose colour meanings It begins very interestingly. The red rose is said to symbolise love, and, I quote, is ‘Perfect for: freaking out your first date; covering beer stains; wooing a hunky bishop.’ So, something to bear in mind there? In contrast, according to Readers Digest, the pink rose is said to express grace and elegance, as well as sweetness and sympathy: and thus: ‘Perfect for: sick secretaries, (and) the platinum blonde in your life.’ Again, is there something useful for us to remember there? Well, maybe just a teens-weensy bit of gender stereotyping in that, don’t you think?! It is a little like many approaches to Mary, the Mother of Jesus …
What is your favourite Easter story I wonder? I read a lovely one the other day. A teacher had asked her young pupils to write a line or two about what they were going to do over Easter. The children started scribbling away until one little boy put his hand up. ‘How do you spell gun?’, he asked. A little bemused, the teacher replied, ‘G-U-N’. The boy started writing and then put his hand up again. ‘And how’, he said, do you spell die?’ A good deal more perturbed, the teacher replied, ‘D-I-E’, and then she added cautiously, ‘what is it you are going to do?’ ‘Oh’ said the little boy, ‘it is going to be fun… we’re gun die eggs’.
Well, a number of folk among us have certainly dyed eggs for today: just one of the many wonderful symbolic traditions which have grown up over the centuries around Easter. Indeed, some of these are perhaps as curious as the little boy’s spelling and grasp of language. They are certainly diverse, rather like the variety of ways in which the Gospel writers and St Paul speak about the Resurrection. Does that matter, do you think? My sense is that that is precisely as it should be. For the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is like an explosion, the impact and implications of which can never be understood and lived out by one tidy account or explanation. Rather the meaning of Easter is only something we grow into, day by day, year by year, as we reflect upon the different ways our Bible and Tradition speak of it, and, crucially, as it comes alive for us in our own lives and times…
address by The Revd Dr Jon Inkpin and the Revd Penny Jones to Toowoomba Marriage Equality meeting, 17 April 2016
It is sometimes said that ‘you are either part of the problem or part of the solution’. In our case we are very much connected to part of that which indeed is often the problem, but we also hope we can be part of the solution. For we have been married to each other for 30 years, presided at marriage ceremonies for about 60 years between us, and shared both amazing joys, and, sadly, many tears with many LGBTI friends and family members for so much unnecessary pain, abuse, and rejection. So, above all, want to affirm three things which we feel are at the heart of this issue, and at the heart of Christian faith - namely: love, valuing everyone as part of God’s image, and being and growing family. We feel we need to say something briefly about two things which some misuse to hold us back: Christian tradition and the Bible. And we want to suggest three key areas of resistance. In doing so, we hope and pray for a speedy end to so much unnecessary suffering and look forward to many more tears of joy as marriage is extended and grown.
We would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Jarowair and Giabal peoples, their elders past and present. And we do so, because this helps us nurture respect, deepen relationship, and find renewal for us all – which, of course, is what marriage equality is also about at its best. For from a Christian point of view, marriage is about sharing in the ultimate mystery of love. We only have to go to the opening words of scripture from our Anglican marriage service to see that: ‘God is love’, we say, ‘and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them’ (1 John 4.16). For Christians, that is the heart of the matter: where is love in all of this? In the end, what would Jesus do?...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney