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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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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Introducing Christianity

Introducing Christianity

As an intellectual exercise I chose 6 books from this millennium that I would pick as a kind of introduction/getting deeper into Christianity. Check out the what and the why and then sound off in the comments with what you would choose.

"After covering trends in world theology, the Godhead, and the crucifixion it's time to get into the Bible. Here, like with the following book, I decided that rather than an overview of the Old or New Testament I would go with a book on one book."
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We are, indeed, worthy

We are, indeed, worthy

Worship songs which stress our unworthiness not only miss the story of Scripture, but are also a danger for those struggling with depression and feelings of worthlessness. Painting by Heather Miller

"Jesus’ preferential option for the poor seems much more concerned with lifting the worth of an individual (not only societally, but in their own view of themselves in relation to God) than in ascertaining whether the appropriate belittling has already taken place."
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On Shattering My Unhealthy Obsession with Perfect Decisions

On Shattering My Unhealthy Obsession with Perfect Decisions

The much awaited second guest post by Heather Miller

"For so long I have confronted decisions with an unhealthy intensity, hoping to catch the goodness of God by making the “right” one. But the goodness of God is not scarce. It is not a rare jewel to be seized and tucked away in a secure place, under lock and key, for fear of losing the advantage. His favour is not won through excellent and untainted decision-making."

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The Fear of Death: the cause not the curse

The Fear of Death: the cause not the curse

As new creations, born again, we empty ourselves of the fear of death, not because of a life that is to come, but because of the life that is now (all the life, the depth of life that is available). It is not selling out our fellows (which comes from the fear that leads to greed and the faith that leads to escape) it is buying in to the world, investing in the now, through the selfless love/hospitality/service of the other. Our embrace of the New Being and acceptance of our status of new creations liberates us from the fear of death because it overcomes sin… overcomes separation.

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Violence, Babylon, and The Boss

Violence, Babylon, and The Boss

If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot them on sight, I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be alright… 

Bruce Springsteen, Jack of All Trades, Wrecking Ball (2013)

O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!  

Psalm 137:8-9

Ps 137 has much to contribute to both corporate and personal worship and piety. And from what we see in lyrics such as Springsteen’s, where the church has shied away from the raw ‘unattractive’ emotions of these psalms, secular art has maintained the tradition of use, and provides a stunning case for their power and importance.

[You can find a talk based on this post here: Psalm 137: Anger & Non-violence ]

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The Bible and its Inspired Contradictions

The Bible and its Inspired Contradictions

Recently I came across this wonderfully interactive and thought provoking graph, which charts all of the Bible’s contradictions. 

Simply hover over a line (there are a lot of lines) and it will show you the idea/command in question and the relevant passages at odds with one another.

 

Personally, I really like this. I appreciate someone with the time and a mathematical acumen bringing it together. This graph doesn’t need to subvert our faith; it need not send us out into the cold lonely wilderness. What it does is call us to look at what scripture is, and what was the purpose of its construction.

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