|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Today’s Gospel reading is a very rich passage, full of extraordinary metaphors, story and meaning. It includes, for example, that powerful central affirmation of Christian Faith that God so loved the world that they sent their Beloved One that all who believe may have eternal life. Note well the heart of this good news: that God loves the world so much that all who believe – not just the doctrinally righteous, or the ethically conservative, but all may have eternal life. For the God we celebrate today is the God of unlimited, inexhaustible, love. As our Gospel text says, Christ comes among us not for condemnation, but for love and salvation. Let us therefore affirm again that you, we, all of us, are loved. The Gospel, our Good News, invites us to claim this, and live it. All of which brings us, in this passage, to the person of Nicodemus, and to light, and darkness…
Almost a hundred years ago, a notable book of English Modernist theological essays was published. One leading conservative voiced a classic critique. The book, he said, was a typical example of liberals thinking less about God and far too much about a secular audience. Liberals, he alleged, are constantly asking ‘what will Jones swallow?’ – Jones being the name for the supposed average person in the street. The response from the editor of the book was swift. ‘I am not asking what Jones will swallow’, he retorted, ‘I am Jones themselves, asking what there is to eat.’ For there is a big difference, isn’t there? The idea of asking ‘what will Jones swallow?’ is undoubtedly a conservative prejudgment of liberal intentions. Yet it can be one unfortunate dynamic in faith circles, sadly leading down the path of reductionism and beyond. Asking ‘what is there to eat?’ is a much more radical and open question, possibly leading even to revisiting aspects of diets left aside in the past. For a self-confessed ‘progressive’ church like Pitt Street Uniting Church, it is certainly a question which needs to be at the heart of our healthy spiritual pathways. After all, as the missionary theologian D.T. Niles once memorably said, sharing the Good News is essentially about ‘one beggar telling other beggars where to find bread.’ So what does this food look like today? And what does our reading this morning from John’s Gospel have to say? For John chapter 6 is a lengthy excursus on the bread of life, and how it may be found, or not. What challenges, and opportunities, does this raise for us, as individuals, and as a community together, at this stage in our development?...
Lent 2A, Sunday 16 March 2014 by Jonathan Inkpin
I had to have a chuckle the other day when I saw the words ‘The Vault’, as the name of the strip club which is coming to town. It is not a very encouraging name, is it? OK, I guess it is in an old bank building, so maybe there are connotations of riches buried within and plenty of security. Yet, even when I think of a bank vault, it doesn’t seem very exciting. It is not the first place I would think to hang out in. For a bank vault is typically dark, enclosed, and pretty lifeless. Indeed, when I first hear the words ‘The Vault’, what really comes to mind is a place with tombs. Royal and well-to-do families have had such things in the past: places where the tombs of the family dead are interred. So, being in a vault, doesn’t seem very appealing.
In a way though, I guess calling a strip club ‘The Vault’ is, in that sense, actually quite appropriate. For, leaving aside the more lurid and prurient reactions of our more wowserish brothers and sisters, I don’t think we should get too wound up about it. As Toowoomba grows, it is fairly likely that such things will come into our midst. I guess a strip club also provides a kind of a brief, cheap thrill for some. Yet it is not much of a contribution to light and life. So the name ‘The Vault’ seems quite fitting. For if I were seeking light and life, I’d be thinking about getting out into the open, into fresh air, and making real connections and relationships: not hiding away in a dark corner, furtively peeking out in a hoard of fantasies. That might work for a pile of gold or banknotes, but not for human beings. It does indeed speak of being locked away in a death-bearing tomb, rather than finding new life and resurrection. Which is the alternative option offered by Jesus in our Gospel story today…