Today a very few of us (in line with current health guidelines) gather to baptise Charlotte. And we do so in the face of perhaps the greatest global crisis we shall see in a lifetime. Yet, in some ways, what better time to baptise someone! What better time to remember the great themes of baptism, water, life and light...
One of the great things about theology from the margins is how it brings the Bible alive in liberating ways. Therefore, as the young gay Sydney Anglican Joel Hollier puts it, for many queer folk like he and I, ‘we’re not queer despite the Bible. We’re queer because of the Bible.’ As we read the Bible ‘with queer eyes’, more and more sexually and gender diverse people are renewing the very elements which gave the Bible power in the first place: seeing and exploring the extraordinary diversity and dynamic of goodness in creation and human bodies; the central call to justice and infinite compassion for all; the redeeming power of love in the face of suffering and death; and the resurrection promise of new life and flourishing found in the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the world. That is one reason why, personally, I’m so over the old arguments about sexuality and gender, not least the so-called ‘clobber texts’. Honestly, why on earth would we waste time on others’ hang-ups, when we’ve such good news to explore and share? In this, today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 9.36ff) is a striking example. For in Tabitha/Dorcas, we find a startling model of discipleship from the margins: truly, an evocative, entrepreneurial, exemplar…
I want to talk about being locked shut and about being breathed open. And I want to explore what it might mean, as Jackie will do today (as she comes to baptism as an adult), to begin again.
‘The doors of the house where the disciples met were locked for fear of the Jews’. Those early disciples were a pretty terrified bunch. Even as the possibility that Jesus could be alive was dawning on them, they remained uncertain, afraid of being arrested and killed. It seems to me likely that they met secretly for a long time. The texts of the New Testament compress what was probably a lengthy process, into the shorter units of symbolic time. But whether these things happened over a few hours and days, or many years hardly matters. What matters is that a change occurred and a new beginning became possible...
Feel the breath of God move softly
gentle mists across the skin;
Earth is breathing God’s own spirit,
life renewed from deep within.
Sing a song of living waters,
pulsing through the veins of earth.
These words, from a hymn by the eco-theologian Norm Habel remind us what we all know; that water, especially river water, is sacred; essential to life; the very stuff of which we are made. Our own bodies are largely made up of water as indeed are so many of the creatures on our planet earth. From this vital element and many others, God is continually creating, every day new species, new variants. As Norm Habel has written elsewhere,
“One of the ways that we know God keeps creating you and me and all forms of life is by using the water in rivers. The flowing water in the river we see is indeed the water of life we need to survive. But it is also the very stuff God uses to create in the cycle of creation. The same waters of the Flood and the Ice Age are the very waters God uses to give us life, to create. There is a finite amount of H2O on Earth, whether it is in the form of water, ice or moisture. And the fragments of H20, the little bits of water, are re-cycled endlessly. God keeps creating and sustaining life with the same water age after age and generation after generation. Water is the very essence of the cycle of creation."...
Let me draw your attention to three wonderful themes in our gospel today - those of presence, peace and possibility, and to the physical expression of each of them...
for Pentecost 4, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Sunday, 13 July 2014 by Jon Inkpin
Are you a dancer? Do you ever go to a dance group, or watch dance? Have you ever been a dancer? – I don’t mean professionally, or even as a hobby, just: have you ever danced? You know, I reckon all of us have danced, at least once, and more than once, even if we have forgotten, or chosen to forget, about it. Think about it: all little children dance. Put on a piece of music, or just watch a little child moving about: he or she is full of natural dance and movement. For dancing is a very natural part of what it is to be human. Indeed, it is a natural, and even integral, part of what it is to be alive. For the whole creation is really, actually, a dance: a dance of all the elements of creation; in, and with, the glory of our dancing God. I hope that doesn’t seem like a shocking affirmation. If it does, then blame Jesus in our Gospel reading today. What is he saying? – why: let go of your burdens and dance with me. So, will we dance?...
by the Revd Dr Jonathan Inkpin, Pentecost evensong at St John's Cathedral Brisbane, Sunday 8 June 2014
‘Come out from behind that thing!’ – the Aboriginal elder’s voice rang out powerfully as I was about to begin the Decade to Overcome Violence launch in Alice Springs. She was objecting because I was behind a lectern: another whitefella, as it were, standing over or apart from her. As it happened, in what followed, every blackfella who spoke also headed behind the lectern. I guess therefore it was probably that elder’s own personal issue. Yet I have never forgotten it. For, in a way, following feminist pioneers, it was a lived experience of what Indigenous scholars (such as Denis Foley, Martin Nakata and Aileen Moreton-Robinson) call ‘standpoint theory’.
Standpoint theory is a postmodern method for analysing inter-subjective and ethical discourse. For a standpoint is a place from which one sees the world. It thus helps direct both what we focus on as well as what is obscured. The specific circumstances of our standpoint then determine which concepts are intelligible, which claims are heard and understood by whom, and which reasons and conclusions are understood to be relevant and forceful.
Now, like any approach, standpoint theory is not without weaknesses. It risks, for example, generalising the experience of different peoples, and it risks suggesting an overly ‘essentialist’ character of particular genders, races, or other identities. Yet it is a powerful means in which marginalised groups can challenge the status quo. Indeed, as the feminist theorist Sandra Harding put it, it helps create ‘strong objectivity’, or strong inter-subjectivity. For when the perspectives of the marginalised and/or oppressed are included, we have more objective, or deeper inter-subjective, accounts of the world. This is vital to a richer, and more life-giving, ethics.
Spiritually speaking, standpoint reflections also lead to a richer ethical and doctrinal expression of Pentecost. For, in Pentecost, the Spirit of God is embodied, enlivened, and expressed through all created voices. As God’s voice puts it, through the prophet Joel, in our first reading tonight, ‘I will pour out my spirit on all flesh’: on old and young alike, male and female, not least slaves; and, the passage goes on to say, also through the more-than-human environment, by ‘portents in the heavens and the earth.’ True Pentecostal experience, it seems, is about true inter-subjectivity. All creation’s standpoints are voiced, held together, and contribute to the whole. Pentecost is thus a basis for a holistic, fully environmental, ethics. For Pentecost is so much more than we have often made it...