Eastertide: Ascension

Jesus as the new face of God brought the God-up-there down to ground level, eventually reconstituting an ancient mystical understanding of the God who is everywhere. The ascension narrative of St Luke (Ch 24) does not ignore or avoid the vertical thinking that dominated peoples’ view of the divine but uses it as a starting point for an enlarged discussion around how we see and understand God.

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Eastertide: ‘Doubting Thomas’ gets a bad rap

We all have doubts, whether we acknowledge them or not. The journey of faith does not build on a foundation of certainty. There is an invitation to trust and to believe, but to trust and believe goes hand in hand with moments of doubt and uncertainty. The idea of trust actually requires doubt and uncertainty, otherwise you don’t need to trust, because you know!

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Eastertide: The Emmaus Road

The Emmaus Road, as an in-between space, is the road that most of us are on, most of the time. We set out on our paths with plans and intentions, hopes and dreams, (shattered and fulfilled), and what happens along the road determines our destination. We might end up in the same ‘physical’ location that we set out to reach, but how we get there will change everything about the way we engage with the destination.  

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Formation: The Bible - How Jesus changes the way we read

When we see Jesus engage in scripture, he does so in creative and provocative ways. He is not stuck in a fundamentalist universe, but instead offers reimaging and reinterpretation. His common refrain in the sermon on the mount is “You have heard it said, but I say unto you…”.  He starts with an ancient Old Testament text and then in the tradition of wisdom, engages with it, interprets it, argues with it, and pushes it forward.

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Mother Earth

What we believe about God has a direct bearing on how we practice life. If God is good and calls our planet good, then we have responsibility to care. If God is a judge who will eventually set fire to this planet (and start a new one), then we can easily trash her, give God a hand and speed up the process.

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Eastertide: Peter

The Apostle Peter was a curious character. If Mary Magdalene was the faithful, loving and devoted one, then Peter was the reactive hothead who raced around in a whirlwind of his own enthusiasm and then flamed out, spiralling into a pit of shame (before becoming one of the great leaders of the early church of course).

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Eastertide: Mary Magdalene

How often do we identify and define each other, (or ourselves) based on our past? What is it about human nature that loves to ‘dig up the dirt’ on someone else? Can we recognise and remember people for the goodness that lies within  as opposed to the sin? And can we allow, even encourage people to become all they were created to be, accepting and embracing all despite our perceived bias and world view. 

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Formation: The Bible - What to do with violent scriptures?

So what if we were to read these kinds of violent stories as a commentary of wisdom on the human psyche, the human condition. An insight into our ongoing struggle with ego, with competition, with fear of otherness and the way people have always integrated all of this into religious beliefs and our claims about what “God has said”. Our sense of belonging in a religious community can be shaped by the belief that we’re in and other people are out. God is on our side but not theirs. So God becomes implicated in our own violence. We use the name of God to give divine support to the causes and battles we align ourselves with.

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So Now What?Clint Gibson
Lent: Holy Week 

Jesus was inviting us to embrace a new way of living that would include many deaths along our path in search of our true selves, where our ego, or our need for control, or to be right, or to know, is slowly put to death. His death showed us that we can die, and his resurrection that we can live.

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Lent: Personal crisis and self-realisation

The early stage of lostness reveals itself in a type of dis-ease with life as we know it. The younger son, according to cultural norms, had no right to demand his inheritance but the fathers willingness to comply suggests something bigger going on behind the scenes. Was all not well in Prodigalville? The claustrophobic nature of these feelings eventually push us toward escapism, the need to abscond from that which seemingly traps and restricts our lives. Our impatience with our maturation is often seen in our youthful rebellion as we push the boundaries and revolt against the powers that be.

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Formation: The Bible - How myths can be true

In the Ancient Near Eastern world, modern historical method was not the way of talking about origin stories, of the big questions of life, meaning and history, of the experiences of a community. So if we bring those modern assumptions to the text, we end up falling into an either/or mentality. And often the way that ancient peoples told their stories, and especially their origin stories, was to use mythological elements to communicate theological ideas. We can call this “mythicised history” or “theological history”. In other words, the question is often not – “did this happen exactly this way?”, but rather, “what do we learn about the way they see God and reality?”

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Lent: Letting go of the chase

The disciples are tempted, as so many of us are, to take whatever system is in front of us, be it religious, political, or economic, and figure out how to use it to our advantage. To feed the drive of the ego. We are so often at the centre of our own story, jostling for position. Maybe it’s not as overt as these two brothers, but a lot of the ways we structure our society is designed to help us feed the ego, to acquire more status and more influence. The challenge of Jesus is that the pathway to life and to the kingdom of God, is found in the giving up of our chasing status, power, influence and success in favour of seeing others liberated. 

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Lent: The life found beyond prejudice

The profound shock In the parable of the Good Samaritan is that the ethnic and religious other is the one who shows compassion. This story is a pointed way of saying: you need to examine the ethnic and religious prejudice and exclusion that you hold. This needs to change!  Jesus challenges the entire notion of trying to decide who is my neighbour and who isn’t my neighbour. Who is in and who is out. Who is one of “your people” and who isn’t. Jesus exposes the fault in the question itself.

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Lent: The virtues of Cruciformity

Compassion does not see people based on some kind of preferential treatment, its lack of bias and partiality reminds us that it is available to all at any one time. Compassion as a metaphor for God cannot be restrained by our religious or social constructs, lest we become deceived into thinking that the divine has a elite group of people that are favoured more than others. The only people that seem to attract divine favour are those who are at their most vulnerable at any given time.

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Lent: Lost and Found

We cling to things that ultimately do not give us the meaning and fulfilment that we crave. We think that ‘having’ or ‘getting’ that thing is what will make us feel happy and satisfied.  But the challenge of Jesus, and our challenge as we enter Lent, is that ‘getting the thing’ is not the ultimate way to this kind of life. It’s the giving up of things for others. For God, and for our neighbour.

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Formation: The Bible - Wisdom Text or Instruction Manual

The kinds of things that the authors of scripture are wrestling with are in many respects the same we wrestle with now. They’re couched in different contexts and different language, but it’s often the same journey. Whether it’s how we deal with conflict, about what we believe lies at the heart of fundamental reality, about what we believe is central to the human experience, about how to negotiate our own demons, our jealousies, anger, rage, anxiety, worries, loves, relationships.

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23rd Psalm - The Table

Consequently,  dealing well with our enemies – internal/external - in Christ, brings a sense a security and self assurance that doesn’t drive us to be independent and self defined, but comfortable in who God created us to be, happy and content to remain in the house of our divine creator rather than trying to construct our own.   

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23rd PsalmClint Gibson
23rd Psalm - Disorientation

The nature of anguish, uncertainty, mystery, lament, dark night of the soul and despair is all a critical part of our experience if we are to follow the trajectory of providence. In order to move through to new orientation we must all experience disorientation. There is no fast track to the new, in fact Brueggemann says that despair is where hope lives. In other words we all need to experience the darkness in order to find the God who hides in the shadows.

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23rd PsalmClint Gibson
23rd Psalm - For your Names Sake

This phrase both challenges and humbles me, as I consider my human task as a divine representative. I can partner with God, or not. Either way I am still assured of the love of the Great Shepherd, but with or without me, God will do what is purposed, for the sake of God’s own.

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23rd PsalmClint Gibson