|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of the puzzles Christians have sometimes set themselves is to work out what light is being referred to in the first few verses of the Bible. For, apart from modern light forms, we are so used to thinking of light from the sun and moon, which, in the Genesis account, are only created later. Various possibilities have therefore been suggested by the great theologians. Some (such as Ephrem of Syria) have thus suggested the light was a pillar of fire, or (like Basil of Caesarea) that the essence of the sun without its actual substance, or even that the light came for the angels (in the case of Augustine of Hippo). However, in so far as we might respond, I think I would go with the Orthodox Church’s understanding of ‘the uncreated light’ of God in Godself. For, when we come to the first chapter of Genesis. we are speaking here of divine mystery, depth, purpose and ultimate meaning, not literal or even limited symbolic explanation of Creation. Rather, like our second reading today (For Light by John O’Donohue), the nature of Genesis chapter 1 is poetic and prayerful, seeking to lead us into sacredness. For above all, such texts are designed to renew our sense of wonder and participation in divine creation and our role as priests of God’s Creation…
Many years ago, before entering ordained ministry, I worked for the probation service in England. I was an assistant house manager for a hostel for what were called ‘hard to place’ ex-offenders. ‘Hard to place’ – whom do you think that included? ...
Well, it referred both to those who had committed the most serious of crimes and to those who were liable to cause physical and reputational damage, including those who had committed arson or who might be seen by the wider community as scandalous. We had men who had committed so-called ‘minor’ offences – some of whom, to be honest, could sometimes be the most awkward residents of all. We also however sometimes had men who were on ‘life license’ for taking the lives of others. Certainly, we always had at least one man, or several, who had committed sexual offences. Perhaps that group of people were also always of the greatest underlying concern, at least in terms of risking public outcry and our own limits of hospitality. For appropriate relationships with those who have committed sexual offences is rightly vital. What then does that mean, today, for churches?...
What happened on 14 July 1833? Well, obviously, all kinds of things, not least in post-Revolutionary France perhaps, albeit it had at that point backslid into a monarchy. For Anglicans that day has certainly become a momentous turning point, for it was the date of John Keble’s famous Assizes Sermon in Oxford, a sermon given traditionally at the start of the law courts in England. It was not a call to Revolution. Yet it was a call to arms and to re-foundation and it issued in a movement of considerable change. In the face of a greatly transforming world, and of significant changes in church-society relationships, it helped give the Church of England a fresh identity and vitality. So, on the anniversary of his death, as we remember John Keble, can the memory of that sermon, and of his life and ministry, challenge us to find similar purpose and energy today?
A desert monk who once said: ‘the day will come when the world will go mad. When they meet someone who is sane, they will point at them and say “they are mad: they are not like us.”’ ‘They are mad: they are not like us’ – isn’t that part of the madness of our own world today? How often do we separate ourselves from others, or are separated from others, because the awareness of our common humanity has been lost? How badly do we need the sanity of loving our neighbour as ourselves?
As the Warumpi Band put it, in a notable song:
Black fella, white fella./Yellow fella, any fella./It doesn't matter, what your colour./As long as you, a true fella./As long as you, a real fella. Isn’t this at the heart of Jesus’ teaching in our Gospel passage today?...
How do you picture peace? I wonder if your vision is quite the same as that of the prophet Isaiah in the John the Baptist story in our Gospel reading today? Isaiah says this: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Well, that definitely doesn’t work for me if it were taken at all literally. For I was born in the North Pennine hill country of England, which owes so much of its life, history, wildness and picturesque beauty to the variety of its landscape, its hills and valleys. I certainly know that the folk of the Durham Dales would do all they possibly could to avoid every valley being filled, every hill being made low, and the winding paths and rough ways being made smooth. I suspect too that few people in Toowoomba would take kindly to such an environmental transformation of our own Range, valleys, hills and landscape. No. On this second Sunday in Advent, as we centre on the theme of peace, we need to look deeper if we are to find fuller meaning in today’s Gospel reading. Perhaps we are helped by re-casting Isaiah’s words a little. To that end, I offer some words of the great El Salvadorean archbishop and martyr Oscar Romero: words which I believe catch up the spirit of the Advent prophets, that “Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.” Let me return to that, and to John the Baptist in our Gospel, again, in a moment…
Candlemas 2014, Sunday 2 February - by The Revd Dr Jonathan Inkpin
I once knew an English bishop who would occasionally get a bit frustrated with some of his priests. You can tell, he used to say, when a priest stops learning and growing, by the publication dates of the books on his bookshelf. In some cases, you only have to look at their bookcase to see that the last theology they ever read was when they were in theological college many years before. Well, that was certainly not true of Father George, my mother’s family’s priest when I was growing up. Father George was in many ways ‘just’ another priest in London diocese, but, unlike some priests and lay Christians, he never stopped learning and growing. Sure, he got a little stuck on one or two issues, as we all do...