Monthly Archives: November 2019

Father forgive

Readings
Jeremiah 23.1–6
Luke 23.33–43

The old Coventry Cathedral

It is as if [Jesus] were saying ‘Yes, you did this to me, as you do it to each other, and here I am undergoing this, occupying the space of it happening, but I’m doing so without being embittered or resentful. In fact, I was keen to occupy this space so as to try to get across to you that I am not only utterly alive, but that I am utterly loving. There is nothing you can do, no amount of evil that you can do to each other, that will be able to stop my loving you, nothing you can do to separate yourselves from me. The moment you perceive me, just here, on the cross, occupying this space for you and detoxifying it, the moment you perceive that, then you know that I am determined to show you that I love you, and am in your midst as your forgiving victim. This is how I prove my love to you: by taking you at your very lowest and worst point and saying “Yes, you do this to me, but I’m not concerned about that, let’s see whether we can’t learn a new way of being together.”’ — James Alison, Jesus the Forgiving Victim

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A week ago, we spoke about the hope of a new heavens and a new earth, even while creation groans in unprecedented and catastrophic bushfires. We spoke of the need to have hope in the new creation that God has brought into being in Jesus the risen crucified One, and that God is giving birth to even now. 

So last Monday, it was a bit of a jolt for me to see what another preacher had been saying last Sunday about those same bushfires. 

Israel Folau, former rugby player for Australia and now media celebrity preacher, told his church that the bushfires and droughts we are seeing now have come straight from the hand of God:

You think it’s a coincidence or not? God is speaking to you guys, Australia, you need to repent.

What you see right now in the world is only a little taste of God’s judgment that’s coming, it’s not even a big thing.

And what is God saying, according to Israel Folau? That we should repent of laws on marriage equality, laws legalising abortion. That we should repeal those laws and go back to how things were. 

Mr Folau says God caused the bushfires because of our sin. And if we don’t repent, there will be much, much more. 

The god that Israel Folau preaches sends judgement in a haphazard way. People died in the bushfires. More lost everything. Some of them might actually agree with Mr Folau about a number of things. But they get caught up in it anyway.

The god that Israel Folau preaches lacks basic discernment and compassion. 

What about the God that Jesus embodied? Does this God send thunderbolts to start bushfires? Our Gospel Reading gives us a hand to discover just who the God who came to us in Jesus really is. 

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Creation groans

Reading
Isaiah 65.17–25

 

Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart. — Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club 

Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea as a result of people’s actions, so he will make them taste (the consequences of) some of their actions, so that perhaps they will return (to righteousness). — Quran, 30.41; and

The earth lies polluted
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
and few people are left. — Isaiah 24.5–6

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Creation groans; and we are part of creation. So let me ask: did this last week frighten you? Like we’re on the edge of a precipice? About to fall into an abyss if we don’t burn to a crisp first?

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Children of the Resurrection

Reading
Luke 20.27–38

 

To proclaim the bodily resurrection of Christ is to affirm that his whole person was restored to life. — Katherine Willis Pershey, ‘Making sense of chronic pain’, The Christian Century, 7 January 2015

There is nothing wrong with making sense of life from within the human perspective. That is what human beings do. After all, in Jesus Christ, God stands with us as a human being and empowers us to respond to God from our standpoint, as broken, messy, and complex as it is. The mistake, however, is to insist that all that life can mean is contained within the horizon of our own experience.… Jesus explodes the human horizon. There is profoundly more to life than just the human experience of it, even if that means we cannot wrap our heads around it. Death is not an ultimate condition for Christians, and it does not permanently bind the experience of life and its meaning. — John E Senior, Feasting on the Gospels—Luke, Vol. 2

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Human lives are bordered by birth and death; and very often, human lives are bound by the fear of death. 

I read a lovely article last Monday in which former US President Jimmy Carter said that when doctors told him in 2015 that his cancer had spread to his brain, he found that he ‘was absolutely and completely at ease with death’. While he would of course miss his family and his work, it didn’t ultimately matter if he lived or died. Though I’m sure he’s happy to be alive and still very active at the ripe age of 95. 

In an argument with a religious group called the Sadducees, Jesus spoke about ‘Children of the Resurrection’. I think Jimmy Carter’s attitude to death suggests that he may be a Child of the Resurrection. 

I’d like to illustrate what it means to be a Child of the Resurrection today, but first let’s recap that conversation Jesus had with the Sadducees in our reading from Luke. 

Luke introduces the Sadducees as ‘those who say there is no resurrection’. There was quite the argument going on back then. While the Sadducees denied it, others like the Pharisees believed in newer ideas like the end-time resurrection from the dead. In this debate, Jesus sided with the Pharisees. 

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Servants of the Subversive Kingdom

Reading
Luke 19.1-10 

We had a guest preacher today: Dr Janice McRandal. Janice is a public theologian working out of Wesley Central Mission, Brisbane.

 

In April 1940 the DC Comics Batman strip introduced to the world the now well-known nemesis of their great American hero: The Joker. Always depicted as the dark otherside in the battle for good and evil, the Joker, with his warped and whacky humour and relentless attempts to cause chaos and destruction, played a crucial role in moving the Batman stories along. He was dark and twisted, and a villain who approached crime and weaponry with great creativity and flair. The Joker’s backstory was scant: indeed, for the longest time, we were told that the Joker was an ordinary man who fell into a vat of chemicals, bleaching his skin white, reddening his lips and, fatefully, driving him insane. It’s the kind of fantastical comic book origin detail that does just enough to create a villain and nothing more. The Joker was a plot mover slim on relatability and high on homicidal rage. 

But the Joker story has shifted significantly over the last 30 years, and in 2019, the most controversial film of the year is a re-telling that throws everything we know up in the air. Entirely dedicated to the Joker backstory, the 2019 Joker is brought into a real world as a real-life character that might even make sense. In this psychologically heavy retelling, the chillingly plausible origin story of the Joker humanises this character in ways never thought possible. And suddenly the Batman and Joker story is not at all what we thought. It requires a different approach, a different way of thinking and analysing of the story. Something else is going on here. 

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