The three commands are these:
Take away the stone
Unbind him and let him go...
|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Our Gospel reading today (John 11.1-45) is the extraordinary story of the raising of Lazarus – a story of resurrection not just for the future, but into every day, earthly material life. I want us to concentrate on the three commands that Jesus gives in this story. Over the coming week you might like to ponder each in turn for a couple of days, and see how God speaks to you and the circumstances of your life through each one.
The three commands are these:
Take away the stone
Unbind him and let him go...
Making a transition is rarely easy, is it? Currently I’m conscious of many changes in which I am involved, some of which will take much time, wisdom and energy to unfold. We are, of course, in the very midst of such a change this morning, as Penny and I lay down our callings here, and as all of us open ourselves to the new things that God will do with us in the future. As such, this is a special, and precious, moment, as all holy transitions are. For the test, and the fruit, of God’s love is often found where we experience change. After all, as we see again, strikingly, in our Gospel reading today, our God is a God of a new creation, always calling us forth into new life and growth. Like John the Baptist, some of us are called to let go and pass on the baton. Like the disciples we are all called to ‘come and see’ where Jesus is calling us. Like Simon, we may be called to new names and purposes. Don’t you agree Penny?...
Many years ago I ministered with a wonderful older couple. Let us call them Bill and Beryl. They were faithful Christians and stalwarts of our church, and, among other things, I remember their 60th wedding anniversary celebration which brought terrific joy to everyone. Like all of us however they had their quirks, some more endearing than others. As they grew older, for example, they grew less able to come to worship and I began to visit them to share holy communion at home. Each time I visited they would have created a huge feast of salad and salmon sandwiches, none of which they ate but all of which they felt I should consume. Such are the perils of pastoral visiting! Indeed, Beryl also had a huge cupboard which was full of massive quantities of tinned salmon, various assortments of which she always insist on giving me when I tried to leave. Was that an addictive practice, I wonder? Was her salmon hoarding perhaps also a reflection of growing up in days of scarcity and rationing on Tyneside, always, to this day, an economically poor an challenged region of England? I never quite found out, for what concerned me more was Beryl’s often unhealthy attachment to the physical and pyschological wounds in her life, and her frequent inability to respond – like the man in our Gospel story – to Jesus’ call to ‘stand up, take your mat, and walk’...
I want to speak about three things which jump out from our Gospel reading today. I want to speak about fish, faith and forgiveness: about how fish flow out from faith; about how faith flows from forgiveness; and about how forgiveness flows from being a fish. First of all however, let me ask a question: where do you picture today’s Gospel story happening? What kind of a boat is it that sets out fishing? What do the people in the boat and on the shore look like? And what does the beach look like to you? Let us close our eyes for a moment and see if we can picture those elements of our story in our mind’s eye. Maybe we can also hear the sounds, and the smells, of the beach and the sea, the movement of the boat and the waves, the crackle of the fire, the voices of Jesus and the disciples. Let us stop for a moment and try to see, and feel…
I have a good friend called Peter Millar who was recently diagnosed with bone cancer. Some of you may remember him, for he visited Toowoomba a few years ago and he is quite a tour de force! Some of you may also know him from his writings. For Peter Millar is a leading member of the Iona Community in Scotland and a former Warden of Iona Abbey and he has contributed prolifically to sharing contemporary faith and engaged spirituality through many books, articles, poems and prayers. Like many contemporary Celtic Christians, he has also woven together a deep life of prayer and faith with commitment to building community locally and across the world, especially with the poor and the marginalised, and the struggles of the wider environment. Most of all, I think, Peter is an amazing person and model of encouragement for so many people, So it is particularly sad to see such personal struggles afflict such a spiritual live-wire, aflame with the love of God. Yet perhaps this is where, as in the sufferings and cross of Jesus, the love of God really comes alive and shines forth its truth….
How do we respond to death? I don’t ask that as a negative question but because it is at the heart of our Gospel – our Good News – today, and throughout this Holy Week. It is an unavoidable question, however much we try to avoid it: for, as the old proverb has it, two things are certain in life: death and taxes. Yet, more meaningfully, Christians believe, how we respond to death is at the heart of how we find life in this world, which is the ultimate meaning of our Gospel and the culmination of this Holy Week in the Resurrection. So, as we hear today’s Gospel reading (the story of Christ’s Passion according to Luke) - in three parts - let us reflect upon the challenge of death, so that we may find life again more fully, as Jesus offers it to us…
by Jon Inkpin for Easter Sunday, 2015
I would like to ask three leading questions this morning.
The first question is: Does anyone here have a garden?...
What does it look like? What do you do with it?
Do you realise we have a special garden – called a Quiet Garden – at St Mark’s? You might like to check it out sometime…
Gardens are so often a delight, aren’t they? – not least in this ‘Garden City’ of Toowoomba.
My second leading question is: Have you ever done anything wrong, or had something done to you, which was wrong, and which maybe made you feel bad or ashamed?... All of us I suspect!
Have you ever felt afraid, or suspicious too? Have you ever felt betrayed, or been betrayed?
Again, all of us experience these things, don’t we?
This part of what Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, is all about, isn’t it? - facing up to our sin and shame, our fear, suspicion and betrayals. So what then is Easter about? – and what has it to do with a garden? The answer is: a whole heap of beans, running over and flowing everywhere! When we see that our whole life is transformed, just like Mary Magdalene in our Gospel reading today: which leads to my third, and the most important, leading question of all in a moment…
Jon Inkpin for River Sunday, 28 September 2014
What is the name of your river? This is among the first questions Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand will ask anyone they meet. For mihi – greeting and introduction – is very important in Maori culture and establishing relationship requires that people know where each otber comes from and what has shaped them. So what is the name of your river? Maybe, like me, several rivers have shaped you. However most, if not all of us, I suspect, have been shaped by one or more particular river. For, even in our modern world, rivers are fundamental to human existence and community...
by Jon Inkpin, for Land Sunday, 14 September 2014
I wonder if you know Peter Sartsedt’s song ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely?’ Written and released in 1969, it is about a fictional girl called Marie-Claire who becomes a member of the ‘jet set’, the fashionable celebrities of the late 1960s. Her life is full of show and excitement. Underneath however there is another reality. For her story is told from the point of view of a childhood friend who, after recounting all the amazing places Marie-Claire goes to, asks: ‘but where do you go to my lovely, when you’re asleep in your bed? Tell me the thoughts that surround you.’ Then, in the last verse of the song, the secret is revealed. Marie-Claire comes from poverty, ‘from the backstreets of Naples’ and her current life is both a welcome release and a desperate escape from that reality, full of continued scars and regret. For what we are, as people, is shaped by the realities of the places in which we are formed and raised. Only when we come to terms with those realities, their promise and their pain, are we truly set free. This is at the heart of today’s readings as we reflect upon God in the Land. For where do you go to, where do I go to, where do we go to, when we are asleep in our beds? What has our experience of land, of particular places, done for, and to, us? How does land and place shape our lives today?...
by Jon Inkpin, for Forest Sunday in the 'Season of Creation' 7 September 2014
What comes to your mind and heart when you hear the word forest or tree? What forest or trees do you recall? With which forest or tree do you most identify? Probably all us have a particular forest or tree which comes to mind: a special forest or tree which has, or has had, importance to us, perhaps going back to our childhood. Perhaps it is a single tree, in, or on, or beneath which we have played, or met a lover, or found refreshment. Perhaps it is a rainforest, or a stand of eucalypts in which we have spent some time. Perhaps it is a forest or a tree we have encountered in another place or time, on a holiday or a journey. Whatever it is, it will have shaped our life and awareness in some way...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,