let go, let grow, let glitter
A conversational Reflection by Penny Jones, with Josephine Inkpin, on the invitation and challenges of the Beatitudes of Jesus in our contemporary context...
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…
"What's in a name?”, said Juliet: “That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare’s famous lines speak of the power of names and designations. He presents Juliet, on her balcony, musing on the rose as a metaphor, in the context of her love for Romeo and the intense, age-old, conflict between two tribes - the Capulets (Juliet’s mob) and the Montagues (Romeo’s mob). Juliet proclaims that names have no ultimate meaning, other than those which people are willing to give them. As she puts it, in reference to Romeo: “Tis but thy name that is my enemy…. What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot/ Nor arm, nor face. O be some other name/ Belonging to a man.” We do not, says Juliet here, have to be controlled by our names, by our tribes. We can choose how to live with them, and, in love, transcend them. Of course, Shakespeare’s story of the young lovers ends in tragedy. It is challenging to live with, and beyond, our names, our tribal identities. It can bring misunderstanding, opposition, and much worse. Yet is this not the path of true love, in the fullest dimensions of those words? Certainly, as we come today to bless our beautiful new interfaith banner, we do so in awareness of that same call to honour the different names of God, and not to let them control and divide us. For in the depth of all the world’s great wisdom traditions, true love, divine love, is not simply about reaffirming what is valuable in our tribal identities. True love is also about walking paths of inner and outer transformation together…
a children's festival for grown ups?
“And the Word became flesh and stayed for a little while among us”
Most children of five or six can tell you at this season with reasonable confidence whose birth they are celebrating – “baby Jesus’” they will chorus if asked. It has to be said that it is with even greater confidence that they will tell you who it is that will visit their homes tonight and should even now be winging their way across rooftops, sleigh-bells ringing, bearing the presents for which they have learnt to long. In the minds of most of them Santa Claus and Baby Jesus belong together; and it cannot be thought surprising if over time the figure who brings the presents becomes more appealing than this somewhat elusive baby, who does not seem to bring anything in particular.
Now I’d like to invite you in these last few hours of Advent, while we still await the birth of Christ, to reflect on the ways in which the children are right – baby Jesus and Santa Claus do belong together; and upon the ways in which they are also wrong, or at any rate limited...
hope beyond queasiness
How do you relate to Mary in our Christian tradition? Even mentioning her name opens up a host of feelings and thoughts for so many. As the Danish literary historian Pil Dahlerup rightly said, in an article entitled ‘Rejoice, Mary’:
No woman and no deity in the Middle Ages attracted the poets like the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ. It is, however, hard to read what the poets write about Mary; we are inhibited by prejudices that block our understanding of what the texts are actually saying. Protestants dislike her because she is attributed divinity. Male chauvinists dislike her because she is a woman. Feminists dislike her because she is a woman in a way of which they disapprove. Nationalists dislike her because she represents an alien element in terms of creed and idiom. Marxists dislike her because they do not see her (in the North) as a figure of the people…
Despite this, we cannot avoid Mary in Christian faith. Not least, although women and their lives and gifts are so few and highly gendered in the Bible, Mary simply cannot be erased. So what do we make of her today?...
divine hugs in all that we are
‘The Body doesn’t lie’, they say. Well, certainly it can powerfully reveal and prompt us to the truth. Years ago, for example, I remember a yoga teacher asking me to curl up into the foetal position and give myself a hug, expressing my love for myself. But I simply couldn’t manage it. I took up position, but my arms just wouldn’t do it. Even when I actively exercised my mind to give myself the appearance of a hug, my body would not obey. For you cannot simply command love. It has to be received, acknowledged, and embodied. Or, to put it another way, love has to be breathed in and breathed out. All of this takes us to the heart of Jesus’ teaching about the commandments (in Mark 12.28-34), and to the core of the Biblical tradition…
(Jo) What an abundance of rich spiritual images we have in our liturgy today – all trying to capture just a hint of the richness of the Holy Spirit. I wonder which speaks most vividly to you – is it the fire, the wind, the breath, the dove, the tongues, the living bones? Or is it the breathing, the blowing, the swirling, the burning, the dancing, the prophesying? For somehow nouns are never enough for the Spirit – we need the verbs, the present participles that suggest movement, motion, dynamism. One thing is certain, without the Spirit, we as individuals and the church would be stuck – it is the Spirit that moves through our ‘stuckness’ and constantly invites us to the new.
We’re going to explore just a few of the pictures of the Spirit, acknowledging that no one image can ever come close to the fullness of this animating force of the divine. So, where to begin Penny?...
praying the body electric
The word ‘Emerging’ has come to the fore recently. It expresses well where many people of spirit are in our lives and faith journeys. Emerging is also a central aspect of our world as a whole at present, as we engage with the uncertainties and opportunities of possible futures with and beyond Covid-19. Meanwhile, more broadly, Emergence is a powerful theme in much contemporary thinking about science, society and philosophy. Lively questions therefore surround, and stir in us. What kind of a world is it in which we live, and might like to live? What is coming into being, not least in spirituality? What difference might these things mean to our lives and our faith journeys? In other words, to reconnect with the Christian story, what, again, does Resurrection mean for us? For, as our Gospel reading today once more reminds us, Resurrection is an invitation into a more mysterious future, in the power of Love. Consequently, in the next few weeks of our Easter season, let us enter into into deeper reflection on what is emerging in us, and in our journeys with others. We begin with the body. Our Gospel today speaks of Thomas, with the other disciples, trying to make sense of Christ’s risen body. What difference did that make to them? What might the resurrection of the body mean to us?...
I can trace my beginnings to a river. For once upon a time in England, in the difficult days of the depression just before World War Two, two men and a woman boarded a ferry across the Mersey – yes, just like the song! One of the men recognised the woman and introduced him to his friend, the other man. Every day as the three of them made their commute by ferry they would meet, and the woman and the second man grew closer. The second man went to war, but in 1942 he came home on leave and they were married. Then, or perhaps it was a different time of leave, the two of them went to the cinema, but the bombs fell as so often at that time. They sheltered under the great Liverpool St George’s Hall in the air raid shelter. But fearful of missing the last ferry across that river, they took a chance and raced to the shelter near the ferry terminal. That was the night the St George’s air raid shelter took a direct hit and all who had sheltered there were killed. Their need to catch the ferry saved the woman and the second man. In 1944 the woman gave birth to a baby – that child is my older sister. The river, and the ferry that crossed it brought my parents together, and without it, I would not be...
wrestlings, wounds and blessings
As each of us comes to worship today, how are we going in our lives and faith? Are we ourselves wrestling with challenging things in our lives, and with God? Are we bearing wounds? Are we seeking blessing, or feeling blessed? In what ways are we perhaps ‘God’s Wrestlers’, ‘God’s Wounded’, ‘God’s Blessed’? These are but three different ways of approaching the great Hebrew story we encounter today in our lectionary (Genesis 32.22-31) - the story we may call Jacob’s Wrestling with the Angel, or alternatively, Jacob’s Wounding, or Jacob’s Blessing...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney