Who are “the saints”?

Sunday was the day is the day in the Christian year known as All Saints Day. It used to be known as All Souls Day, and personally I think the change is for the better. Its purpose is to help us remember and name people who inspire us on our path of faith and life. I think that’s a good thing.

It turns out you can get an app for your phone that will send you a message every day with the name of that day’s saint, whether St Francis of Assissi, St Theresa of Avila, St Patrick or whoever. I’ve never gone quite that far, but I do see the value in remembering the saints. Not only the ‘official’ saints though, as important as they are.

I’m also interested in remembering the people who have been the saints for me, and for the communities of faith of which I’ve been part.
I want to give thanks for…

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No winter blues here (yet!)

Now I don’t want to get too carried away with this, but I’m enjoying the fact that we’ve moved into Launceston in winter!
Coming from Hobart, there is a fair deal of curiosity about how I’m coping with winter here, together with the odd comment like: “Well, yes, the nights might be colder but the days are  nicer… AREN’T THEY?”   And, I have to say, I’m inclined to agree, even as I wash the frost off my car in the mornings.

The fact is, I like winter – mostly! I like it as a season in its own right, and also for its symbolic importance in the rhythm of life.
I believe that seasons are important, and it matters to me that they are quite different from each other. If I lived nearer the equator I would struggle with the lack of cold days to balance the hot. I would miss the cold and wind and rain – again, mostly!

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Touching heaven, touching lepers…

A reflection offered at Hobart North Uniting Church, 15th Feb 2015

Mark 9:2-9 & Mark 1:40-45

You might expect that, given what I do for a living, I’d be involved in lots of conversations about Jesus! And perhaps I am. Recently I’ve been involved in two such conversations in particular, and they’ve given me quite a lot to think about.

The first was an email one in a group that I’ve been part of for several years: a large group connected with the Common Dreams Progressive Faith movement that has included important international theologians like John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Val Webb, and John Spong… and people like me! As you might imagine, I’ve not agreed with everything I read there, but have found it helpful to look on, and have even added something occasionally.

This particular conversation was triggered by a prayer written by someone in England in response to a terrorist attack. It began a robust back and forth conversation on the nature and language of prayer, on how we speak of and relate to GOD, and on how speak of Jesus in the context of all of this. The content of the discussion was interesting.  But I became saddened by the way in which it quite quickly turned into a debate, and then an argument, about who was REALLY progressive in the conversation. The debate turned into a kind of ‘reverse-doctrine’ thing, based on who had the ‘best’ language, and then on who was or wasn’t still a Christian!

Now, I suspect it was a bunch of good people having a bad day, but I was disappointed enough in the conversation to delete the emails and leave it alone.
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“How long, O Lord?

Every now and then a random scripture will stop me in my tracks.
The impact may be emotional, intellectual, or both. For a while it may become all I think about.

Almost inevitably, a few days later, my congregation gets to hear about it on Sunday, because I can’t avoid sharing it. Psalm 13 is one of those texts, and this is one of those weeks!
Imagine… You’re on a boat. An old boat, not totally seaworthy, perhaps. You really wish you were somewhere else, almost anywhere, in fact. You really wonder now why you’ve given your life savings to the boat’s owner, based on the promise that he could get you where you wanted to go.
Then you remember where you’ve come from, and you remember thinking that trying to get your kids to safety was worth any risk. Anything is better than where you were…

There’s a lot of you on the boat. As the seas turn nasty (again!), you start to get really afraid, because the boat’s not holding together too well. You realise that after trying to get away to avoid being killed at home, you might end up dying a long way from anywhere. Some people have died already.

The cry goes up: “A ship! Over there.”
It’s a military vessel, but you don’t know whose. Still, you can’t help thinking that all will be well now, you’re being rescued… aren’t you? Continue reading

Strange wisdom… Strange blessings…

( A reflection offered at Hobart North Uniting Church. 2nd Feb 2014)

And maybe a strange title too! 

As I’ve grown older I’ve had to deal with the fact that something which makes quite a lot of sense to me, makes very little sense to a whole lot of the people around me!

The Christian faith that I hold dear, and which helps me to make sense if the world, is described by many people in our world today using words such as: immature, hogwash, insecure, superstition, evil and just plain wrong!

And when those words are used to describe something that I hold dear, I find that tough to hear or read.

That’s a tension that I suspect many of us feel on a fairly regular basis.  Continue reading

on ‘lostness’, and being found…

(Reflections on three parables of Jesus in Luke chapter 15)

 When it comes right down to it, “lostness”, in Luke’s gospel, is about being found.  In other words, it’s about grace!

And it’s about celebration: celebration which draws everyone around into it.


 Something’s going on, here in Luke’s gospel.  The writer has a wide range of stories to work with, as he draws together HIS story of Jesus: stories drawn from decades of oral sayings and traditions.  The three parables which form what we now call chapter 15, tell us a whole lot about how Luke sees Jesus, and the realm of heaven to which he points constantly.

Three stories: one about a farmer who finds his sheep… one about a woman who finds her coin…  and the BIG one!   One of the parables that only Luke tells.  It’s the story of the father who welcomes home his wayward son, and the brother who doesn’t.

Putting the three together helps us reflect on what each might have to say.

For example, it helps us to see that each has a touch of the crazy about it!! Continue reading

“Jeremiah, politics, and starting over…”

An Election Day Reflection on Jeremiah’s visit to the potter’s house.  Delivered as a rant on Sun 8th Sept at Hobart North UCA

I have to confess that actually getting started on this reflection was incredibly hard for this week.  Trying to write a well thought-out, logical and objective witness just wasn’t working…

Mostly because for much of this week, and the last few weeks, I’ve been too angry to think straight!

 Now don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with which party will form government after yesterday’s election.  (As I wrote this, it was still yesterday morning, when I was feeling sick about having to vote at all.) 

 As a matter of fact, my anger is not all directed at the major parties… (Not ALL of it!)

 It’s actually directed mostly at the social, political, and media process that has brought our nation to the terrible situation in which we find ourselves, and at ourselves for allowing ourselves to misled by all the lies we’ve been fed. Continue reading