Hope: the practice of defiant faith

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent   (Hobart North UCA)

So…               What IS hope?

We light a candle for it…

But what is it?           And why is it part of our preparing for Christmas?

We could look up definitions.  But, to be honest, I’d rather we think about it from our own point of view for just a little while…  And maybe our own experience.

What does that word, that idea, mean? Continue reading

It’s the little things…

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to read a book. A whole book, in one go! Well, nearly one go. It took a couple of days, firmly esconsed in the incredibly beautiful State Library of Victoria. I had spent time with colleagues in retreat, hearing stories of “Weaving Connections”, and of the year that’s passed since we shared our faith adventure in England. Now it was time for me to be by myself for a bit.

The book itself turned out to be ok but not all that special. Called Ministry as an Art: Exploring Voluntary and Professional Church Leadership (by Clair Woodbury and Clark Saunders), it didn’t have too much that was new to me. I knew this as I started to read.
What it offered, though, was an invitation to read, to think, and to draw together a whole heap of things that have been going around my head for a long time, as I do ministry at Hobart North and within the central Hobart UCA. This was more important than the content of the book itself.

I had been aware for a while that I didn’t need more content, more stuff to process. What I needed was time, and the discipline, to just ‘be’ for a while, to sit with the many “G.O.D. stories” that are part of my/our life and ministry, to remember that life and ministry isn’t all about what I do. This last year or so has been very busy, and I had lost the ability to practice what I preach about seeing the holy Spirit at work among us, about creative and missional imagination, about giving my soul space to sing!

In that bustling, people-filled, and yet peaceful library, as impressive a ‘cathedral’ as any church building, I read a book. I watched the people all around me, some studying for exams, some avoiding study, some people reading for pleasure, some there just to look around.

I read, thought, dreamed, planned, got excited, and dozed once or twice!
And my soul began to be restored…

As I wrote this I had to resist the urge to draw out a ‘moral’ or point to the story, then remembered that the story IS the point of the story!
The End (not)

“not against us…”

It sounds like some kind of demarcation dispute, doesn’t it? Like the ones we used to hear about, where someone did something that was someone else’s job… next thing you know, everyone was on strike!

John says to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us”. His inference is that because this ‘someone’ person isn’t one of them, he’s not playing the game. Honestly, that ‘someone’: what a troublemaker!

Healing in Jesus’ name, for John, is the job of Jesus and his disciples, and no one else. He’s unimpressed, and expects Jesus to be as well, after all Jesus’ reputation is at stake here… I think we can safely say that he expects a very different answer from the one Jesus gives him! Continue reading

Imagine that!

John Lennon’s “Imagine” has always been one of my favourite songs, even back in the days when I felt a wee bit guilty singing along with the line “…and no religion too”.  That worries me a lot less than it once did.  The imagery and optimism of the song made it one that I just really liked.  Lennon was my favourite Beatle, but I was never under any illusion that he was some kind of saint.  He was a man with all of the usual human foibles and demons, and perhaps a few extras, but I liked that he dared to imagine a better world and a better way to live. Continue reading

Of connections and hospitality…

My grandfathers, William Peppiatt (Pop), and James Saward (Papa), served in the Australian armed forces in WW1, as did a great-uncle, Alexander Harvey.  Alexander, Grandma Saward’s brother, was killed at Flanders in January 1917.  Pop and Papa obviously survived, but died when I was 2 and 6 respectively, so I knew very little of their stories personally.

When I knew that I was coming on this trip and had the chance to be in northern France, I hoped that I might be able to visit the area where Pop was involved in battles from 1916-18.  Papa was involved in the Palestine campaign, and was not in France.  This week my wish was fulfilled in a wonderful way… Continue reading

Of crisis and kairos…

One of the most striking things about the “Fresh Expressions” conference thus far, in my experience of it, has been the way that most presentations have begun.  Crudely caricatured, most have started with something like this:

“The church is in crisis and we have to do something, so what we’re doing is …”

Please forgive me, dear presenters, if this sounds harsh, but it’s what I’m hearing.  On many levels, I agree with your analysis and warmly endorse what you’re doing about it.

But the question it keeps raising for me is one that I’ve been thinking about for a while now, to do with our theology of crisis.

What follows is not a well-developed and systematic attempt to articulate such a theology.  It’s not even well researched.  For now, it’s a series of thoughts strung together as I try to process what I’m hearing…

Continue reading