First Refuge

Country of first asylum, or first refuge, is usually a neighbouring country to which a refugee flees. In the face of great challenge, even reported challenge, writing often becomes the place of first refuge for novelists and poets as they seek to make sense of the challenging experience. Rilke expresses it this way: Everything conspires to silence us, Partly with shame Partly with unspeakable hope. From the silence and refuge emerge art, music, poetry and enduring story. In community, these have the power to lead us from isolation to a place where we can wrestle with words and, in time, enlarge our perspectives on life and faith. At an obvious level, writing exposes injustice, as W.H Auden reminds us: Poetry makes nothing happen What poetry makes visible is what changes the world. Beyond politics or self-congratulatory commentary, this works at its deepest level when writers make visible their personal transformation in the light of events and their personal response to God. And so Emily Bronte was able to acknowledge “No coward soul is mine” and Seamus Heaney wrote “Now, to pry into roots. I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing.” These processes, when truthful, can lead us…...

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The Past is a Gift

The Protestant sensibility can ask this question of those who find tradition of immense importance: “How can you trust something that changes?” The contrast here is between tradition and scripture. Prescinding from the question of the role of tradition in producing the texts of scripture, and the way in which tradition determined which books would … Continue reading "The Past is a Gift"...

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Captains of the Soul

In his book “Captains of the Soul: A History of Australian Army Chaplains”, Michael Gladwin tells the story of Padre Hugh Cunningham who was imprisoned by the Japanese on the Burma Thailand railway. Cunningham wore no badge of rank, as was the Army custom for Chaplains until 1942. The Japanese were puzzled by the great … Continue reading "Captains of the Soul"...

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Jesus Teaches And Is Taught About Purity

A Reflection on Matthew 15:21-28 The Canaanite Woman As always, it is important to look at the context of this story. In Matthew’s gospel, the story follows discussions between Jesus and the Pharisees about the Jewish purity laws, and what makes a person clean or unclean. In the preceding passages, we have the Pharisees challenging … Continue reading "Jesus Teaches And Is Taught About Purity"...

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Friends, Not Servants

Why do we include art, music and poetry in our worship? It can be argued that Christian artists, musicians and poets show us how to abide with Christ as friends, not servants, because they explore personal insights into faith through their creativity. “I do not call you servants any longer because the servant does not … Continue reading "Friends, Not Servants"...

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The Love Ethic of Jesus

Jesus said, ‘You have heard it said to those of ancient times, “You shall not kill”; and “whoever kills shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will … Continue reading "The Love Ethic of Jesus"...

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Why I Am Slightly Uneasy About Social Media

Although I don’t particularly like the term, I can be characterised as a millennial. As a millennial, I am a part of a generation of individuals who have intrinsically grown up with and around digital technology. The normative usage of personal computers, mobile phones and video game systems are implicit cultural and generational expectations. Particularly … Continue reading "Why I Am Slightly Uneasy About Social Media"...

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Clouds of Myth Condensing

  Repeating themes of creation, struggle, death and rebirth run through the greatest literature across all cultures. It seems ironic then, that many of our cleverest minds, having “got the picture”, turn to a condensed version or even, in the case of The Fellowship of the Ring, half a short poem to summarise the plot. … Continue reading "Clouds of Myth Condensing"...

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The Kingdom of Heaven is Like …

Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;  it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and … Continue reading "The Kingdom of Heaven is Like …"...

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The Parable of the Prodigal Sons (Luke 15)

But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. (Luke 15:29) Luke 15 is often called The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But it is in fact The Parable of the Prodigal … Continue reading "The Parable of the Prodigal Sons (Luke 15)"...

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Babel, The Titanic and Faith

The words of a Titanic baggage handler to a nervous passenger are well-recorded, “Lady, God Himself could not sink this ship.” The delicious irony is that they were said to Sylvia Caldwell, a missionary returning from Thailand, someone who would have known that God was capable of much more than that. The Bible is full of … Continue reading "Babel, The Titanic and Faith"...

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Divine in the Darkest of Times

After viewing Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper at Santa Maria Delle Grazie, Mary Shelley wrote “How vain are copies”. In her travels at home and abroad, she would have seen many. Since the work was completed in 1498, scholars and artists have offered diverse perspectives and analyses. Leonardo’s mathematical genius and wayward work ethic, local … Continue reading "Divine in the Darkest of Times"...

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Holiness is About Relationship

You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy…You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin…you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am holy.  Lev 19:2, 17,18 Often we equate holiness with morality. … Continue reading "Holiness is About Relationship"...

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The Grace of Discipleship

It strikes me that in last Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 9:35-10:8) a contrast exists between the successful mission of Jesus described in 9:35 and the quality of the twelve called out by Jesus. Jesus is doing great things. And what is the status of those he calls? Well, before we get to that, notice the similarity … Continue reading "The Grace of Discipleship"...

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Saving the Ascension

As we close the liturgical calendar on the great resurrection-ascension-giving of the Spirit narratives, it is fitting to ask what happened at the ascension of Jesus as related in Luke/Acts. It seems to me that many people become more disbelieving in the narrative at the point of ascension, only to regain their theological composure at … Continue reading "Saving the Ascension"...

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St Barnabas Feast Day Reflection

This week we celebrate the Feast of St Barnabas on Sunday 11 June. We first are introduced to Barnabas in Acts, 4:36-37. “There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the … Continue reading "St Barnabas Feast Day Reflection"...

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“Stop Them!” – A Reflection on Pentecost

Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:28–29)   “Stop them!” – Leaders, … Continue reading "“Stop Them!” – A Reflection on Pentecost"...

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The Martyrdom of Stephen as Recapitulation of the Gospel

It is noticeable that Stephen, the first Christian martyr we know of, ends his life without voicing revenge. (Acts 7:60) In this he mimics Jesus. (Luke 23:34) What a gift to bequeath a world so full of malice and revenge! He has seen through the justifications  that allow us to act out our rivalries and … Continue reading "The Martyrdom of Stephen as Recapitulation of the Gospel"...

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Life to the Full

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full – John 10:10 From whence comes life? Jesus was not talking reductionistically about biological life. No, Jesus is talking about human flourishing, about the livingness characteristic of God: friendship, well-being, personal and equally socio-economic well-being. Every aspect of human and non-human … Continue reading "Life to the Full"...

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Is Church Life Consistently Anti-Women?

We had an interesting discussion in the subject Triune God the other day. The topic was feminism and the Trinity, and we read Janet Martin Soskice,  “Can a Feminist Call God Father’?” We worked the issue of androcentrism in Christian discourse, especially in the traditional language of the Trinity. We ran through the reasons why ‘Father-Son’ has … Continue reading "Is Church Life Consistently Anti-Women?"...

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Unity and Persuasion

In his The God of Jesus Christ, Walter Kasper elucidates the meaning of the claim that God is one, and in this singleness the source and foundation of all reality, with the ultimate unity of reality to be found in God. And if God unites all that is, then it follows that God is the … Continue reading "Unity and Persuasion"...

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This Is Who God Is. A Good Friday Reflection

We could begin our reflections for Good Friday in the Garden of Gethsemane. In that garden that Jesus of Nazareth makes his decision. There, he embraces his Passion, cries out to his father about the reality of it. At this moment of anguish, as he faces the suffering that he knows lies ahead, he cries … Continue reading "This Is Who God Is. A Good Friday Reflection"...

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The Gospel is Not a Tragedy

It has been said that many regular preachers of the word are able to communicate with feeling and gusto on Good Friday, but would give their eye teeth to get out of having to preach on Easter Sunday. What can we say that will be any different to what was said last year, or the … Continue reading "The Gospel is Not a Tragedy"...

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Prayer and the Trinity

In his beautiful little anthology on prayer John Moses, citing Mother Mary Clare, says that prayer is to be understood as God’s activity in us rather than thinking that prayer finds its origin in us.1   It is usual to approach prayer as an activity that we do, perhaps as a response to God, but nevertheless … Continue reading "Prayer and the Trinity"...

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Stones Into Bread

I was a chaplain in an Anglican school for some years. Each year I would ask the Year 7s what they thought was the human failing that lay behind each of Jesus’ three temptations. What sin would Jesus be committing if he fell into these particular temptations? (See Matt 4:1-11.) The second and third temptations … Continue reading "Stones Into Bread"...

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