|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Today I would like to introduce you to an old friend. Do you like their orange flowery skin and scrunched up green and other patterned ears? I call them Angell – with a double ‘l’. They come from my first year at theological college, in some of the darkest days of Margaret Thatcher’s time as UK Prime Minister. For I brought Angell home from a church fête stall during a formation placement. This was in Brixton, the scene of two (in)famous ‘uprisings’, or riots – depending on your outlook – led by Black British people. The immediate cause of the first of these, in 1981, was a response to extraordinary ‘stop and search’ laws and police brutality. Tensions were particularly high after a suspicious fire in which 13 black teenagers and adults had died. The final straw was the so-called Operation Swamp 81, named after Mrs Thatcher’ speech in which she claimed the UK ‘might be swamped by people of a different culture.’ The 1981 Brixton Riots lasted for three days. They triggered similar ‘uprisings’ across Britain’s inner-cities, and led to the landmark Scarman Report, which began the long journey of addressing racial injustice and police reform in the UK. It was fuelled by a powerful cocktail of poverty and deprivations of many kinds, as well as race. In Brixton, the large African Caribbean population were at the centre. And it is out of this background that Angell comes, so called after Angell Town, a particularly challenged and challenging housing estate, after which the Church of England parish was named. So Angell reminds me always, both of the very real violence involved in today’s Gospel in the Temptations of Christ, and of the continuing struggles for what Martin Luther King called ‘the beloved community’…
‘You’re Fired!’ No, this homily is not centred on Donald Trump, but on Jesus’ words in today’s lectionary story. Yet that famous declaration is very relevant. For ‘You’re Fired!” is not only catchphrase of one of the more successful Donald Trump initiatives, in the highly rated TV series ‘The Apprentice’. ‘You’re Fired!’ is also effectively the punchline of today’s Gospel passage (Matthew 25, verses 14-30). Indeed, in that story we find that the least successful money entrepreneur is not only fired, as by Donald Trump in ‘The Apprentice’. They, in the Gospel, are also ‘thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’. Now what kind of ‘good news’ is that? And how on earth does it sit with today’s Brisbane Pride Month emphasis on celebration and the joys of affirming God in one another, irrespective of who we are or what we have achieved? Maybe we need to look again with a ‘queer eye’?!...
The great and much maligned former Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, used to say, “We are not up to it, but thank God, God gets down to it.” Today we have heard the stories of three quite ordinary people, Isaiah, Paul and Peter, who did not feel up to it; yet by the grace of God, they found themselves caught up in God’s work; despite their own feelings of weakness and inadequacy.
I don’t know what your own experience has been, but I have certainly learned that following God's call is not a single event. Rather it is a life - long process filled with much failure punctuated with occasional bright points of something that felt like ‘success’, but not success as most people would measure it...
Two days ago, Bishop Jonathan broke open the beginning of this great teaching section of Luke’s gospel on prayer, by reminding us of the centrality of Jesus’s statement ‘only a few things are necessary’. Yesterday, Jo brought us a succinct summary of Luke’s raw rendering of the Lord’s Prayer under five headings all beginning with P, praise and proclamation, leading to providence, penitence and protection. To those five Ps today I want to add three more, Perseverance, Poverty and Purification. I hope these three will shed a little more light on the great P that unites them, Prayer...
Jesus has come to his hometown. And of course everyone wants to see him and to hear their local hero speak. Next week we will hear how what he had to say next got him into trouble. But today we hear how he announces himself with words that must have been music to their ears - indeed the very next verse reads, 'and all spoke well of him'.
Jesus reads the words of Isaiah and takes them as his own mission statement - 'today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing " he says. It is a scripture that talks about good news for the poor, release to the captive, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.' Now most of his listeners would have counted themselves among the poor and oppressed, so no wonder they were pleased...