Our Inestimable Value

One of the benefits of translating the New Testament from the original language is that the pace of one’s reading of the text is slowed down significantly. I was translating Matt 6:25-34 recently and I was struck by the radical nature of what Jesus said to his audience. I have heard this passage many times and I have spiritualised it in the past into a predictable exhortation to have ‘faith’ and not to worry about the future.  However, the first hearers of this message lived in an agrarian society, often living from what was produced locally; if the crops failed, then food would become very scarce for a number of months. If the population was fortunate enough, there might be a wealthy family that could buy food from another place. Jesus’ first hearers would have heard this in a very different way to me.  The closest that I come to encountering a food shortage is when the supermarket is temporarily out of stock of something I want. If I am to  be honest, Jesus’ radical message of ‘do not worry’ disturbs me. As I was translating, I was convicted about how much attention I give to thinking about, and planning…...

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Life: Pilgrim or Tourist?

  I want to pick up Ann Nadge’s most interesting discussion, “How does a pilgrim differ from a tourist?” [Here]  Ann’s discussion was inspired by her recent pilgrimage to “The Holy Land.” I very much appreciate Ann’s notion of the pilgrim who is ‘ready to enter the mystery’. I am pondering these ideas myself in … Continue reading "Life: Pilgrim or Tourist?"...

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St Paul, Romans and the Rhetoric of Eschatological Hope (Part 2)

  Now, after having read part 1, you might be thinking that my findings were an extended activity in stating the obvious. By way of reminder, my argument was that Romans 15:7 – 13 is explicitly connected with a method of reading the Scriptures which understands the purpose thereof as engendering hope (particularly in how … Continue reading "St Paul, Romans and the Rhetoric of Eschatological Hope (Part 2)"...

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St Paul, Romans and the Rhetoric of Eschatological Hope (Part 1)

  It is late 2017, I am about to begin the process of researching and formulating my honours thesis, and I am overwhelmed by the potentially endless possibilities for exploration. I knew I had the desire to spend my investigative efforts in the letters of St Paul, though I had no idea what topics, ideas, … Continue reading "St Paul, Romans and the Rhetoric of Eschatological Hope (Part 1)"...

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The Twelfth Man & The Eighteenth Camel

  St Matthias 24 February There was a time when ordinations in the Diocese of Adelaide were held on St Matthias Day (24th February). Our congratulations to those who celebrate their anniversary of ordination on this feast day and we give thanks for ministries which span decades. St Matthias was selected as one of two … Continue reading "The Twelfth Man & The Eighteenth Camel"...

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Tourist or Pilgrim?

In January, with Brexit rallies stirring outside, I participated in the lunchtime Holy Communion Service in the nave of Westminster Abbey. During the sharing of the Peace, I turned around and realised that our small gathering was being watched by tourists from behind the red ropes. It was disconcerting for a moment. I had come … Continue reading "Tourist or Pilgrim?"...

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Flourishing in Faith – A Book Review

Flourishing in Faith: Theology Encountering Positive Psychology, edited by Gillies Ambler, Matthew P. Anstey, Theo D. McCall and Mathew A. White, is a compilation of essays from various authors which came about as a result of its namesake conference in 2014. This conference, and the subsequent book, had one purpose: “to explore the relationship between the Christian tradition and the emerging field of positive psychology, a branch of psychology that conducts scientific inquiry into factors that help individuals, communities and organizations to thrive.”...

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Without Love, No Sovereignty

A fundamental truth of Christianity is that we are loved by God not because we deserve this love, or have earned it, or have a quality inherent within us that in some way requires God to love us. We are just loved. Irrespective of who we are, what we are, what we have (or haven't done), or what we think of ourselves, or for that matter, what others think of us. God loves us and in this love is true to the very character of the God who is love. (1John 4:7-21) This means that no threshold exists below which God's love is absent. (Cf. Matt 27:46) We are never alone, bereft of God's presence and love. If this were not so what we call God's love would not be love, more like wages paid for due service. (Matt 20:1-16)...

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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....

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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 be included, and the way that not all Christian traditions agree on the composition of scripture, let's give the point. Tradition changes in a way that say, the scriptures these days do not. The problem that must be addressed, however, is that it is tradition (amongst other things) that allows me to read and understand scripture itself. What sense would Scripture make if I had not previously been taught to read and understand the scriptures in the/a tradition of the church? The faith is always handed on through the scriptures with teaching. Now, I don't treat the tradition I have become familiar with in the same way as I do Scripture, (this is presumably the 'trust' issue mentioned above) but the two are very clearly related....

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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 respect and particular “authority” that Cunningham had over the prisoners. The uncertainty around this influence led to his restricted access to prisoners, isolation, and confinement, often in a very low, narrow cage....

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Jesus Teaches And Is Taught About Purity

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 Jesus about not keeping the law, (Your disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat!) but Jesus responds by challenging the Pharisees to think more carefully about what makes a person clean or unclean. He argues that it is not so much washing hands that makes a person clean and what goes into a person’s mouth, but rather what are the words that flow from one’s mouth and what are the thoughts that are in our hearts. This is what true purity is, he argues. ...

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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 know what the master is doing: but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15)....

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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 be liable to the council. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift....

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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 of note, however, is the cultural phenomenon that is the Internet. It has been interesting to me to see it develop concurrently as I have developed, from being an obscure blue button that I was never allowed to click on, to a resource that I was sometimes allowed to use for homework, (at the expense of preventing everyone else from making phone calls in the house) to having perpetual, instantaneous, high-speed access even when I’m not at home....

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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. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king. (From “All that is gold does not glitter” by J.R.R. Tolkien)...

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The Kingdom of Heaven is Like …

Jesus often spoke in parables to teach the crowds that gathered around when he spoke. This parable tells us that a very small seed, if it is tended well, can grow into a healthy shrub even providing a home for birds. It is important to note the context of this parable, following immediately after the Parable of the Sower where Jesus has explained that seeds that fall on rocky ground or amongst thorns do not grow as well as the seed that falls on rich soil. And likewise, Jesus tells the people, the person who receives the Word of God and understands it, is like the seed that falls on rich soil. It puts down roots and yields a large harvest. The implication is that this tiny mustard seed has fallen on rich soil and has been tended and grown to its full potential, so robust that it can be a home for birds....

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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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