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.
This was my first Sunday back from annual leave, and we had a guest preacher. Rev Michelle Cook is a very good friend of mine and of this congregation, a deacon in placement at St Luke’s Weipa (a cooperative placement with the Anglican Church of Australia) and patrol minister in Cape York for Frontier Services.
Michelle preached a fine sermon, taking Luke 19.1-10 as her text:
When I come down to Brisbane I usually spend a lot of time eating meals with family and old friends. I used to spend a lot of time rushing around trying to visit everyone I used to know but now someone organises one event where lots of people come – so then I can actually have a holiday rather than a series of meetings one after the other.
These get togethers are surrounded imbued and facilitated by food. Sometimes we eat out at a restaurant – old favourites and new ones on the scene.
More often now we meet at someone’s home – most restaurants don’t like being inundated with children under 10. I felt especially sorry for a restaurant we went to last week where Zaney decided the chopsticks were, alternatively, drumsticks, wings for a plane (that happened to be in his sandals) or stirring sticks for drinks.
So we eat a meal together and talk about new things that are happening, things that used to happen – and what things we would like to happen.
Hospitality abounds – food, wine, conversation. Sometimes it is a foretaste of that welcome and hospitality that I know heaven will look like – a foretaste of what the reign of God will be. Conviviality, love, laughter – joy –a meal that goes on forever without indigestion.
Meals are important. They are an overlap between a public and private space – sharing meals can be an intimate expression of care and love for those at the table.
But it gets me thinking about who I actually eat with. Who do I share this care and love with? How do I express hospitality to those around me?