|Pen and Ink Reflections||
How do we picture transfiguration? Do you like the transfiguration mandala of Jack Haas for example? It is better than many as a prompt for reflection today. For the story, symbol, and spirituality of Christian transfiguration is rich and profound. Yet it can be a puzzle and portrayed in very limited dimensions, and can then seem quite distant to some of us. Let me therefore offer four pathways into the reality and meaning of Christ’s Transfiguration: four pathways on the model of the spirituality wheel of which Penny Jones spoke to us a few months ago, and to our Ministers Retreat this week. For transfiguration, as Jack Haas suggests, is like a biblical mandala, of enriching colour and creativity for our lives: a kaleidoscope revealing divine transforming love…
what is there to eat?
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?...
what is Resurrection for us?
a shared reflection and invitation by Josephine Inkpin (J) & Penny Jones (P)...
(P) We‘ve just heard two different accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, haven’t we?! (Mark 16.1-8 and John 20.1-18) So what we do make of that – and all the other resurrection accounts which cannot be simply conflated? More importantly, what does Resurrection mean to us – to you, to me, to all of us together? That is not a question which can be answered in a few minutes of Reflection. Jo and I have therefore decided to open up a dialogue, which we hope will encourage us all to share in the days ahead. For one thing which is absolutely clear about Jesus’ resurrection of is that it is related through a multiplicity of stories and symbols. These come from different people and biblical outlooks and they thereby also invite us to share our own experiences and insights into Resurrection. For Resurrection is an extraordinary reality we celebrate today. Yet it is not a simple ‘fact’, is it Jo? Isn’t it rather an invitation to see, and travel into, deeper experience, deeper love, and deeper mystery?…
‘My burden is light’. This assurance from Jesus invites us to consider the things we carry, and how burdensome they really are. It invites the question, 'how much is enough?' How much is enough of anything - faith, love, food, work, information? We live in a culture that is dominated by the excess of many things. Yet as human animals we are driven by a seemingly insatiable appetite for more. While this may be a part of our biology, our scriptures and traditions teach us another way, that may help us off the treadmill of more, more, more. God in Christ invites us into another way of seeing the world and our needs within it – the way not of the ‘wise and intelligent’ (I think being understood here as those who think they are wise and intelligent and have the paperwork to prove it!) but rather the way of the vulnerable and open, the ‘infants’...
One of the wonderful things about many Jewish people I have met is their capacity to wrestle with our human experience and ideas of God. They just do not settle for simplistic answers, especially when it is comes to the really big human questions of hope and suffering, life and death. Indeed there is a famous saying: ‘ask two Jews, get three opinions.’ Now, of course, this, can occasionally lead to a certain stubbornness and unnecessary conflict. It points us however to the very heart of biblical religion, especially as we find it in the Hebrew Scriptures. For the God of the biblical tradition is very much a God with whom to wrestle. We see this, not least, in the book of Hosea, from which we hear again today. Indeed, the God whom Hosea reveals is very much a God wrestling with God’s own compassion, very much as a parent wrestles with their own hurts and hopes for their child. This is the deepest, most mysterious, heart of love, and it is into this kind of love we baptise Margaret Rose today…
standing on holy ground
by Jon Inkpin, for Pentecost 12A
What do you make of religious experience – not religious ideas, religious morals, religious activities, but religious experience? Does it make you awkward, uncomfortable, even embarrassed? Many secular people find it to be so. Even many Christians avoid talking about it. To a degree, this is understandable. Religious experience can be very intimate and personal. It is not always something we want to hawk about and have discussed in public. It is after all a holy thing, and St Paul warned us not to throw holy things before the ignorant, the swinish, lest they be trampled underfoot. It can also be misused, like those Christians, and others, who sometimes tell us that unless we have their kind of religious experience – perhaps their kind of conversion or charismatic experience – then we are not Christians, or acceptable to God, at all. All that, as I say, is understandable. Yet, if it keeps us from religious experience, or reflecting on our religious experience, then it is a huge problem. For, as we see in today’s great story of Moses and the burning bush, religious experience is central to our Faith. Encountering the living God is not an embarrassing extra to life. It is at the heart of our being and our becoming. For, as Saint Augustine said, our hearts are ultimately restless until they find their rest in God...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney