Learning Sabbath

Learning Sabbath

God acts to release people from bondage. But this is not some abstracted releasing, the word implies another actor is in play. Pharaoh held Israel in bondage, the Accuser held this woman in bondage - God’s liberative acts are acts for us and against another. Sabbath, then, is a time where we take stock of our lives, our communities, our world and seek to see that which is out of line with God’s will, that which is in opposition to God’s creative, liberative, and restorative work. When we come to such a state of awareness we draw near to God so we may be better postured for what God has released us for: participation in the making right of all that is wrong, every day of the week. 

Sabbath is about learning what it is that God demands. We must learn to rest: it is not all up to us, and our worth is not found in our productivity, or busy-ness (This is why it can be helpful to think of days beginning at night, with rest, than in the morning, with work. Rest is not something we earn from our labour, it is a gift given to us, just because we are human, and it is from that place that we then turn to our labour). We must learn to organise our communities in a way that lets others rest - especially those who work jobs with less security, or those who have to work multiple jobs just to meet basic needs (this is why I am passionate about the campaign to keep Boxing Day a public holiday - the combination of Christmas and Boxing Day serve as the only time of the year in which people could be guaranteed two consecutive days off - those at most risk of losing that are the vulnerable). We must learn to let the earth rest - to let fields and fuels rest by being ready to relinquish the privilege of “everything now” (my daughter has eaten watermelon almost every day of her life, and while I am thankful for the option when all else is failing, it is also concerning that we have structured our society in such a way that a seasonal fruit is available all year round). Learning Sabbath is also bout learning Jubilee; Sabbath is about the justice and equality that comes through the redistribution of land, the setting free of slaves, the wiping clean of debt so that people will not be stuck in cycles of poverty, so that disparity in wealth, health, and opportunity will not be enshrined and past on across the generations. Sabbath is about learning to be a people whose lives are shaped by God and God’s reign - where the lowly are lifted up and mighty cast down, the last are first and first are last, where the poor are blessed and so too the peacemakers, and where the banquet halls will be filled with those who are never on anyone’s guest list.

Image credit: Barbara Schwarz OP, 2014

Read More

Temptation

Temptation

In facing temptation Jesus shares in this most universal, though most unfortunate aspect of the human condition. The deep solidarity of the Incarnation goes this far, indeed further; because Jesus is the one able to resist temptation even to his death.

This sermon explores why scenes of temptation have so long captured the artistic imagination, and asks why Matthew crafted his temptation narrative to mirror his Passion account, and how that communicates the good news of deliverance from the powers of sin and death.

Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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…
Read More

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.

Read More

The Preference of God and the Presence of Christ

The Preference of God and the Presence of Christ

A sermon from Refugee Week: The Preference of God & the Presence of Christ. Eastwood UCA, June 26.

"When God enters the Exodus narrative, it is not as some abstract principle or ethereal ideal that all can strive for. No, God enters the narrative decidedly and emphatically on the side of the oppressed Israelites. God takes sides against Pharaoh and the Egyptian oppressors."
"... when we act to greet the refugee, to offer welcome and hospitality – we are not solely performing acts of charity – we are encountering and welcoming into our midst the Risen Christ. Just like for those who fed the hungry or clothed the naked, or welcomed the stranger in the story of Matthew 25, what we do for them we do for Christ."
Read More