|Pen and Ink Reflections||
First of all, may we say thankyou for this opportunity of sharing with you. It is actually unusual for us to preach together – and rest assured this does not mean a sermon of twice the usual length! – but we felt it was appropriate to do so in the light of our reading from Galatians today, which includes that amazing declaration of Saint Paul that, among other human differences, ‘there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus.’ A good deal of our ministry, individually and together, has been seeking to share this central reality of our Faith, that ‘in Christ’ all things are made whole and flourish to their full potential. In a world so sadly divided by competition, by racism, sexism and ‘isms’ of all kinds, this is such vital ‘good news’ we have to share as Christians, beginning with the journey of wholeness we can find ourselves in Christ. In a few minutes, we want to share just three ways in which this is taking place in Toowoomba. Before we share something of Toowoomba however, let us look at our Gospel story today. For you have certainly found your visiting preachers a rip-roaring tale haven’t you?!
On the Humanity Sunday in the Season of Creation, it seems appropriate to talk about People. In talking about People, I also want to talk today about Place and Purpose - all three of which items are central to our Carnival theme: 'to be a pilgrim'...
"Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands…and put my hand in his side; I refuse to believe.” Thomas was after certainty wasn’t he?
Often we speak of ‘doubting’ Thomas. Yet the Thomas we encounter here is not so much doubting as demanding proof. There is an aggressiveness in his demand for sure proof that is disturbing, and is matched by the fervour of his response once proof is provided. ‘My Lord and my God’ he proclaims: the loftiest acclamation of Christ anywhere in the New Testament.
In terms of personality it would be more accurate to characterise Thomas as a fundamentalist than a doubter. For him things are very clear with no grey areas. Such clarity produces great zeal and a capacity for courageous and devoted service. It is also potentially very dangerous.
Today across our world we see an increase in fundamentalism. This is true alike of all the mainstream religions and also of liberal securalism. It is a human phenomenon of our times, arising at least in part in response to the uncertainties of the post modern era, with the rapid pace of change brought about by the technological revolution. Fearful of the attack on familiar elements of culture and the perceived rubbishing of important values many people are attracted by the simplicity and apparent clarity of a fundamentalist approach. We can recognise it in ourselves; and we can see it just as clearly in those who would outlaw all religion as having evil consequences as in those who see themselves engaged in ‘Holy War’...
by Jon Inkpin, for Pentecost 12A
What do you make of religious experience – not religious ideas, religious morals, religious activities, but religious experience? Does it make you awkward, uncomfortable, even embarrassed? Many secular people find it to be so. Even many Christians avoid talking about it. To a degree, this is understandable. Religious experience can be very intimate and personal. It is not always something we want to hawk about and have discussed in public. It is after all a holy thing, and St Paul warned us not to throw holy things before the ignorant, the swinish, lest they be trampled underfoot. It can also be misused, like those Christians, and others, who sometimes tell us that unless we have their kind of religious experience – perhaps their kind of conversion or charismatic experience – then we are not Christians, or acceptable to God, at all. All that, as I say, is understandable. Yet, if it keeps us from religious experience, or reflecting on our religious experience, then it is a huge problem. For, as we see in today’s great story of Moses and the burning bush, religious experience is central to our Faith. Encountering the living God is not an embarrassing extra to life. It is at the heart of our being and our becoming. For, as Saint Augustine said, our hearts are ultimately restless until they find their rest in God...