In recent years some of my Aboriginal friends have said to me that they do not really believe in the Australian concept of Reconciliation and some of the activities, like Reconciliation Action Plans, which have accompanied it. Meanwhile some Church leaders have said to me that they do not see much point in engaging actively in ecumenical endeavours. So why, we might ask, are we marking the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this morning? Actually I did wonder about changing the title on the front of our liturgy sheet today to ‘Prayer for Just Relationships and Communion in Christian Diversity’. That, for me, would be at least part acknowledgment of the difficulties of the words Reconciliation and Christian Unity and the need for re-imagining as well as building on the good work of the past. However I have left Reconciliation and Christian Unity in the title for the present, so we honour where we have traveled. Nonetheless, as we hear our two readings this morning (from Revelation chapter 22 and John chapter 17), we do well to reflect more deeply on the words and constructions we may use in order that we share in more fruitful pathways for our work together with others. For that purpose I also offer you the cartoon meme entitled the #4thBox, as an encouragement to deeper prayer, more imaginative reflection and more creative action…
What is an 'indecent' body to you? Marcella Althaus-Reid, one of the most stimulating of modern theologians, posed this question vibrantly. Her best known book, entitled Indecent Theology, challenged us to reconsider how we see and talk about bodies - especially female, sexually and gender diverse, poor and colonised bodies - all which have been treated as ‘indecent’. This, for me, is certainly at the heart of a healthy understanding of gender identity, and, crucially, affirms the gifts which gender diverse people have for the whole body of Christ and the whole body of society and our planet. It also takes us to the heart of 1 Corinthians chapter 12, where St Paul specifically commends us to honour the ‘weaker’, ‘less honourable’, ‘less respectable’ members of the Body of Christ. For, as Paul affirms, these ‘indecent’ members are ‘indispensable’, requiring ‘greater’ honour and respect...
breath - holy and dangerous
“He breathed on them and said, ’Receive the Holy Spirit’”
- Oh my: it’s to be hoped they were all at 1.5metres distance and wearing masks!...
The Freedom of Francesco
One of the names I was given when I was born was Francis, in its masculine form. So, over several years, I pondered it. well.Today it is not one of my legal names. However it is still very valuable to me. According to the dictionary it means, particularly in its Latin form ‘Frenchman’, which is a lovely little challenge of inclusion for some of us brought up with centuries of conflict and xenophobia between England and France. In its Teutonic, and American usage, it also however means ‘Free’, which seems particularly life-giving to me, and certainly one beautiful way of considering our little brother Francesco, St Francis, the patron site of this college and its site. So what are the features of this freedom which Francesco lived and encourages in us? What difference may walking with St Francis make to us and our world today?...
In the opening pages of the excellent historical account of aboriginal dispossession in southern Queensland entitled, One Hour More Daylight, the authors reference a report by Native Police Commandant Frederick Walker . In July 1849 Walter engaged in battle with the Bigambul people of the Macintyre district. The report described protracted conflict and concluded with the words, “ I much regretted not having one more hour of daylight as I would have annihilated that lot.”
It is a powerful phrase. It tells us at once two things. Firstly it tells us that across Australia and certainly in areas very close to here, the aim of early white settlers was not just to subjugate Aboriginal people. It was to annihilate them and remove them from the land entirely. This is our history. Secondly it tells us that the attempt to do this did not in fact succeed. Aboriginal people not only survived, they went on to contribute hugely to the culture and prosperity of modern Australia. This too is our history, but it is a history filled with struggle, ambiguity and pain that has to be acknowledged if it is to heal. It is a history of massacres, of the poisoning of wells and the deliberate exploitation of the defenceless. It is a history of the systematic destruction of languages, culture and ceremony and the connections that those things provide. It is a 230 year history of colonisation, dispossession and subjugation...
Shall we agree to disagree? No, we won’t. That has been the answer to that question through much of human history, hasn’t it? Isn’t it still the answer today in many places and in many parts of our own lives, including within the Anglican Communion today? As human beings we really struggle with the idea of unity on any other basis than what seems good, and restricted, to us. We see this played out, time and time again, in politics, in the great events of the world, in contested issues within the church and other community groups, and in our own family and personal lives. So praying for Unity and Reconciliation, as we do today, is a real challenge. For what kind of unity and reconciliation are we actually praying? Is it that our will, or God’s will, be done? Is a different answer to the question ‘shall we agree to disagree?’ part of this? I have been reflecting on these things over the last few days in relation to three key issues which have touched my heart: namely the terrorist bombing in Manchester, the campaign for Marriage Equality (a keynote Brisbane meeting of which I attended this week), and Australian Reconciliation. Each raise thorny problems if we look at them in certain ways. Yet they offer us encouragement to true unity with genuine diversity if we regard them in other ways. For how do we picture unity? It makes all the difference how we see it…
Have you heard the tale of the barefoot man, the migrant woman and the taxi driver? It is a true story that Pope Francis recently told to more than 25 000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square…
calming the demons of our day
First of all, may we say thankyou for this opportunity of sharing with you. It is actually unusual for us to preach together – and rest assured this does not mean a sermon of twice the usual length! – but we felt it was appropriate to do so in the light of our reading from Galatians today, which includes that amazing declaration of Saint Paul that, among other human differences, ‘there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus.’ A good deal of our ministry, individually and together, has been seeking to share this central reality of our Faith, that ‘in Christ’ all things are made whole and flourish to their full potential. In a world so sadly divided by competition, by racism, sexism and ‘isms’ of all kinds, this is such vital ‘good news’ we have to share as Christians, beginning with the journey of wholeness we can find ourselves in Christ. In a few minutes, we want to share just three ways in which this is taking place in Toowoomba. Before we share something of Toowoomba however, let us look at our Gospel story today. For you have certainly found your visiting preachers a rip-roaring tale haven’t you?!
Mothers Day – what do we make of it? In some ways is a strange, and very modern, development. Indeed, if we ever needed an example of how culture shapes an idea in different ways, then Mothers Day is it. Originally it was a revolutionary rallying call to mothers to take action to save their children and stop war. Yet today it is a much tamer and commercialised affair: a largely domesticated call to do something for mothers, however small. Instead of mothers themselves organising campaigns for peace and justice, as they did when it began, Mothers Day today is mainly an opportunity for mothers to be pampered by their nearest and dearest, at least for one day. So where does God’s love fit in all of that? Is there anything Christian faith might have to say to affirm, deepen, and expand our meaning of Mothers Day? Well, yes: especially on this particular Mothers Day, which is also the feast day of the medieval saint Mother Julian of Norwich, and the first day of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Both of those events help us see and use Mothers Day more fully, as an opportunity to share the mothering love of God more abundantly: not only by rightly valuing that love in our own mothers, but by renewing that love in our own selves, and by extending that love to others, different to us and further afield…
responding to death
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…
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney