Joseph, Jesus, and staying open to a Resurrection

Joseph, Jesus, and staying open to a Resurrection

On rehearsing arguments in the shower and a God whose business is resurrection.

Joseph has remained open to seeing and experiencing the love and hope and presence of God in all things - even the darkness of the gallows. He held fast to his belief that God can bring life out of death, that what others meant for harm God was able to turn to good.  

Joseph theologically interprets his story – what you had meant for evil God worked for good – Joseph stays open to the fact that God can bring life out of death; that God can pull off a resurrection. Now it is important to note that Joseph did this work for himself. He does the work to see God in the twists and turns of his own painful journey. It is not for us to impose this kind of reading over another’s life, lest we end up like Job’s friends, chased off by the hurricane of God.

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Hope in Judgment (Advent 1)

Hope in Judgment (Advent 1)

Advent calls us to look forward. Place not your trust in the deception of human progress but the coming judgment and righteousness of God. This sermon was delivered at Leichhardt Uniting Church on the first Sunday of Advent 2018. “O my God, in you I trust”

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Tending Bodies Marked For Death

Tending Bodies Marked For Death

The story of Rizpah and the anointing at Bethany demonstrate how our care for the bodies of the dead, those approaching death, or those burdened by the existential deaths our society deals in, is a way of reflecting the careful attention paid to our bodies by a God who formed the human body out of the clay of the earth, who knits us together in our mother’s womb, and who will raise us bodily in the resurrection. (image: Rizpah by George Becker)

Amidst all the political drama of the story of David, it is this act of grit, performed by a grieving mother, that is commended as moving the heart of God.

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Doctrine as Translation

Doctrine as Translation

This post develops a proposal for a role of doctrine in a post-Christendom, global church. It explores writings by George Lindbeck and Kevin Vanhoozer, arguing their contributions restrict the potential for translation through calls to unity. To move forward I engage the function of doctrine, drawing on James H Cone and Ellen T Charry. They show doctrine needs to be transformative, meeting people in their contexts and drawing them into the mission of God. Finally I examine the potential of the role of doctrine as translation; a process empowering both the renewing and rebirth of past expressions of doctrine, and the emergence of entirely new forms built on the endless array of communal and individual experiences of God.

“Doctrine should do something. It should compel the Christian, drawing them into, or sustaining them through, the struggle for liberation and freedom for the oppressed.”

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The Transformative Power of Naming

The Transformative Power of Naming

In Scripture naming has a transformative power, it often reflects an encounter or expectation. This post explores four scenes involving naming (Moses and the burning bush, Hagar and El Roi, Jacob becoming Israel, and Simon becoming Peter). 

For we who encounter God, we too receive a transformed name – not necessarily in a literal sense like Peter (though that is the case for some) – but our name, our identity, our history and future is transformed by being conformed, swept up, in the life of Christ, in the history and future of God. We don’t lose our particularity, any more than Peter did, but we are drawn into the mystery of God and sent on God’s way – sent on the way of God who hears the cry of the oppressed, and sees the abandoned.

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Sermon Video: Learning and Unlearning in the Family of God

Sermon Video: Learning and Unlearning in the Family of God

This was a sermon I preached at Leichhardt Uniting Church on November 9, 2017, the Sunday after it was revealed that Australia had voted YES in the marriage equality postal survey. It had been a gruelling campaign, and even though this was a very positive result, the pain caused to the LGBTIQ community was not instantly washed away. Leichhardt had been very active on the YES side of the campaign and had been wonderful in the many varied ways they supported the LGBTIQ community throughout these past months. The sermon explores Nehemiah 8: 1-12 (the reading of the Law of Moses to those returned from exile) and the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). The first reading demonstrates that in Scripture we have the ability to hear our humanity read over us, an affirmation of our status as created, loved, and liberated - an affirmation that moves the assembly to tears, a beautiful counter to their years in exile where they were dehumanised and oppressed. The Parable of the Talents is a commonly misread text, and thus demonstrates the way Scripture can be culturally accommodated to support systems and structures that bind rather than free. 

We must continually examine the affect Scripture has on our life. Is it something that reminds us of our humanity – of our neighbour, our strangers, our enemies humanity. Does it remind us that what God says about us it the truest thing about us, and what God says is we are loved and welcomed and called to a new way of living… Does it subvert the world as it is with an image of the world to come – a world creating, reconciling, and redeeming… Or, does it fall into thoughtless patterns where it becomes a way of setting boundaries, a way of propping up cultures of individualism, patriarchy, heterosexism, exploitative economics, colonialism, and so on… Without frequent reading in a community committed to liberation and in a movement to the margins these risks increase.
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All The Things I've Tried that Failed

All The Things I've Tried that Failed

If I were writing a book about my work as a chaplain it could be suitably titled All The Things I've Tried That Failed. In this post I search for a different way of measuring my (our) participation in the mission of God. Exploring Moses, who the Lord knew face to face; Paul, who came in gentleness; and Christ, who set the bar at love - there's a way of 'measuring' the Christian life that subverts and redeems all manner of downward slanting graphs.

To love God and love neighbour is to be drawn beyond ourselves and our own interests – it is, first, to seek fully and forever after a God who is both entirely beyond and within. It is to praisefully devote ourselves to the hidden and invisible God who we can know intimately. It is to experience and allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit of fire, without being consumed, without forfeiting agency. It is, second, to seek fully and forever after the interests of our neighbours who cannot be contained, controlled, or categorised. It is to joyfully commit ourselves to their flourishing and liberation, affirming their humanity as made in the image and likeness of God. It is to experience and allow ourselves to be converted by these encounters, without ever losing the confidence that who we are, as fearfully and wonderfully made, is, when coming to rest in God, enough. 
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To Hear Humanity Read Over Us

To Hear Humanity Read Over Us

When the post-exilic community hear the Law of Moses read aloud they are moved to tears, what a thing to be reminded of your humanity after living amidst a dehumanising system/society. This piece explores James Cone, Slave Spirituals, Kendrick Lamar, and Sia as examples in this lineage of speaking humanity over the oppressed. It also asks what does it mean for me to be reminded of my humanity in a system designed to celebrate it above all else.

It is in the Law that they hear their humanity spoken over them. In the Law that they hear that they are created in God’s image, created for freedom not bondage, and that God is for them and not on the side of their vainglorious oppressors. What a thing that must be, when for 70 years you have heard (and witnessed) nothing but the opposite. What a thing it must be to hear that you are known, valued, and a person when the society around you has demonstrated their belief, in no uncertain terms, that you are lesser, disposable, a non-person.
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The failing & hope of the Church: thoughts on and from James H Cone's Black Theology & Black Power, ch 3 The White Church & Black Power

The failing & hope of the Church: thoughts on and from James H Cone's Black Theology & Black Power, ch 3 The White Church & Black Power

My series on James Cone's Black Theology and Black Power continues. This post comments on chapter 3 "The White Church and Black Power".

From the chapter:

If the real church is the people of God, whose primary task is that of being Christ to the world by proclaiming the message of the gospel (kerygma), by rendering services of liberation (diakonia), and by being itself a manifestation of the nature of the new society (koinonia), then the empirical institutionalized white church has failed on all accounts.
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The Gospel and Black Power: thoughts on and from James H. Cone's Black Theology and Black Power: "The Gospel of Jesus, Black People, & Black Power"

The Gospel and Black Power: thoughts on and from James H. Cone's Black Theology and Black Power: "The Gospel of Jesus, Black People, & Black Power"

The 4th post in the series on the writings of James Cone. Here I reflect on Cone's response to questions such as what is the gospel of Jesus Christ, what is the righteousness/justice of God, and whether Christian love is compatible with Black Power.

Therefore violence may be the only way to express Christian love to the white oppressor, as it is the only way to confront the white oppressor as a thou, to remain a thou in the face of the threat of nonbeing, to remain true to the worth, value, and humanity that God has bestowed through the initiating agape love, the only way to embody love as righting the wrongs of humanity because they are inconsistent with God’s purpose.

 

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Asserting Black Humanity: thoughts on and from James H. Cone's Black Theology and Black Power "Toward a Constructive Definition of Black Power"

Asserting Black Humanity: thoughts on and from James H. Cone's Black Theology and Black Power "Toward a Constructive Definition of Black Power"

The 3rd post in a series on the work of James Cone. Here I reflect on Cone's definition of Black Power, the affirmation and assertion of black humanity in the face of white racism, how I am a racist, and the risk of liberalism.

To borrow a phrase from Paul, we live and move and have our being in a racist society, a racist climate. I cannot deny that which I have inherited, racialised narratives that shape the way I see the world and the gut reactions I have to stimuli and the way it shapes how I turn observation into meaning.
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Emotional Theology: thoughts on and from James H. Cone's Black Theology and Black Power, Introduction

Emotional Theology: thoughts on and from James H. Cone's Black Theology and Black Power, Introduction

The second post in the series on the work of James Cone. Here I talk about Cone's criticism on objectivity and the need for our emotional response to injustice to shape the writing and performing of our theology. A prescient point in light of the current refugee debate and proliferation of inhumane treatment of those seeking safety.

Calls to ‘remain rational and objective’ are more often than not a ploy of those with power to dismiss the objections of those without (this is obviously not a new insight). It is easy to stay ‘rational’, ‘objective’, ‘cool, calm, collected’ when your body isn’t on the line – when your life, and the lives of your people are not at risk
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Thoughts on and from James H Cone's Black Theology and Black Power, Preface to the 1989 Ed.

Thoughts on and from James H Cone's Black Theology and Black Power, Preface to the 1989 Ed.

New Series: In this, the final year of my Masters, I'm writing a thesis based around the theology of James H. Cone, the father of Black Theology in the US - and one of my favourite theologians. Because of that I'm going to have to read a bunch of his books. This made me think, why not get a little synergystic and blog through the books of his that I'm reading. Cone is an undervalued theologian, and it is a shame how few people know him or his work. So if I happen, through this, to encourage people to check him out, then that's a win. Today is the first in this new series, beginning with the 1989 Preface to the 1969 work Black Theology and Black Power (Harper & Row, San Francisco). I'm also going to include companions (in forms of songs, readings, films, etc. along the way). This post also leads to some offshoot thoughts about Australia Day, the "Alt-Right", and X-Men. 

As Cone writes, “amnesia is the enemy of justice. We must never forget what we once were lest we repeat our evil deeds in new forms” (xi). Cone is applying this to himself and his silence on the oppression of women, and it needs to be something I apply to myself, to my own past (and present) misdeeds, shortcomings, mistakes, silence, and perpetuation of oppressive systems and structures against all those who are striving for justice (Indigenous Australians, women, the LGBTIQ community, migrants and refugees). It also needs to be something we remember as a community, about our past… and this makes me think about Australia Day…
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Advent! What do we do when the end is nigh?

Advent! What do we do when the end is nigh?

From Y2K to Mayan 2012, Titanic to the movie 2012... how do we live in light of the end.

There seem to be two broad responses: 1) hoard and withdraw 2) intensify living. The second is the proper response for Christians, and when understood and embraced helps remind us (particularly in mainline traditions) of why focusing on the end is so important.

This was the model of the early church. The earliest believers tended to think that the end was nigh – that Jesus’ return would occur in their lifetime, or perhaps the generation after. However this did not send them off into the hills, this did not cause them to be insular, closed off, and withdrawn. Far from hording, it actually caused them to be joyfully generous with their possessions. The early church intensified their ethical engagement with the world; they upped their neighbourliness and outward focus. They sought to care for those marginalised by society – widows, orphans, lepers – they shared what they had, giving to all who had need, they devoted themselves to their cause, and to the one on whom it was grounded. The presumed immanence of the end empowered them to live boldly, to love boldly, to care boldly – because any difficulties, any struggles, anything they had to go without, would pale in comparison to what was coming. Rather than withdraw, they sought to witness and live out a rehearsal to the world that would be ushered in by the forthcoming end.

This post is based on a sermon I delivered at Forestville Uniting Church on the First Sunday of Advent, 2016.

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3 Takeaways from Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder's WHEN MOMMA SPEAKS

3 Takeaways from Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder's WHEN MOMMA SPEAKS

Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder's insightful exploration of six Biblical mothers through the lens of womanist maternal thought is a book that I encourage everyone to dive into. It is accessible, yet rigorous; efficient, yet impactful. In this post I explore the three main takeaways I felt the book offered. I also interviewed the author recently, see it here.

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Sermon: Awaiting A Response

Sermon: Awaiting A Response

Habakkuk's prophetic book begins with a bang. Bursting open the doors of resigned apathy and quiet pietism by demanding of God a response to the violence and injustice he sees around him. I explore two responses, the first is direct from God, the second is found in Jesus' interaction with Zacchaeus.

... how many of those under the thumb of Zacchaeus, who’ve had to go without because of the taxes he levied, how many of those oppressed by his economic exploitation found solidarity with the words of Habakkuk – how many, when they heard the scroll of Habakkuk read in Synagogue thought of the violence and injustice inflicted upon them and their community by Zacchaeus, and how many cried out to God hoping for a response… and here, Jesus embodies that response and brings change.
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