Sermon: Love One Another (John 15:20-26)

A little over three years ago Sonia and I first walked into this parish. We were tired and broken, and we needed a new church home, but more than that we needed to be loved. Everyone welcomed us warmly. Victor took us out for coffee that week and we sat with him, just across the road in the shopping centre, and we told him our story. He listened attentively and, at the end of it all, he said to us, “I hope this will be a place of healing for you.” I will never forget the impact of those words. Nor will I forward the reality of that healing coming through being loved by this church family. I don’t have to look far at all to see a group of Christians fulfilling Christ’s command from our Gospel reading today, “love one another as I have loved you.” I have seen and experienced the love of God from you. I have sought to love you in return. A lot has changed in those three years. For us personally, but also for this church. This church has had 15 baptisms and 4 confirmations and receptions i

Sermon: Numbers 21:4-9

The Old Testament reading this week is an interesting passage. We have this story of the people of Israel, having been rescued from Egypt by God, now travelling through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, and they’re upset about the food. It’s amazing how short memories can be. It wasn't that long ago that they were the victims of slavery. I can’t imagine the Egyptians were serving up food that was much better under those conditions. Yet here they are, whinging and whining, and wanting to go back. The text tells us that, in response, the Lord sent venomous snakes amongst them. We just have to take a moment to sit with this statement. The Bible is written by multiple authors over many years and so we understand that there is not one singular understanding of God throughout the scriptures. Rather, there are many theologies that evolve over time. Here, the author has taken a strict monotheism, that is the belief that there is only one God and there are no other divine bei

Sermon: Mark 1:29-39

  Do you think you can keep a secret? I have an important secret. A secret so powerful that it will change your life forever. Can you keep a secret? You probably already know this secret, but I want to make sure you know it. Really know it. Can you keep a secret? Here’s the secret. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. It’s a good secret isn’t it? Do you know it? I mean really know it? Mark shares this secret at the start of his gospel account. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). Mark wants to make sure you know this secret too. There is general agreement that Mark is the earliest of the four gospel accounts. It bears so many similarities to Matthew and Luke that scholars also agree that those other authors used Mark as a source for their own accounts. More recently, it’s been suggested that Mark wasn’t written to be read but rather to be performed. That makes sense given only a few people were actually able to read anyway. Mark is short, sharp, and to

Fear of Forgiveness

This last Sunday the story of Jonah appeared in the lectionary readings. Specifically, it was John 3:1-10, which is the part of the story where the Ninevites express their belief in God. More importantly, they expressed that belief in a performed way. In my PhD I drew upon theo-dramatic theology (Hans Urs von Balthasar and others) and performance theory (Richard Schechner and others). In this part of the story, the Ninevites are warned about their behaviour and respond by seeking forgiveness. Actually, they want God to change God's mind.  In classical theism God doesn't change. It's one of the defining characteristics of the divine nature. Here, though, the King of the Ninevites expresses something that seems to contradict that kind of theology; "Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish" (3:9).  To seek this change they perform what we would call, in performance theory, an "offer." In impr

An end and a beginning...

At about 4:30pm on New Year's Eve (2023), I submitted my PhD thesis. It was a quiet moment, with my wife by my side. It was a simple moment, with only an email disappearing off my screen to confirm the disappearance of year's of work into the hands of the examiners - no printed and bound copies, no physical copies of any kind. Just a PDF attached to an email. Gone.  It was the end of years of work, struggle, and wrestling. Throughout my candidature, I encountered many doubts and fears. Was my idea good enough? Was I being heretical? Was my idea new enough? Could I do this? Then there was the inevitable imposter's syndrome and writer's block. Wow, did I struggle with these two. There were too many times to count when I sat at my computer with barely more than a paragraph added to a document because I couldn't get the ideas out of my head and onto the page. This, of course, fed the idea that someone was going to figure out that I really didn't know what I was doin

Sermon: Matthew 13:1

I love questions. Many here would be aware that I’m working on a PhD in theology. I’ve also been a teacher of theology, worship, and critical thinking, for around 12 years. I love answering questions and I love asking questions. I suspect my students hate it, though, when I answer a question with another question. Theological questions tend to be quite simple. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is faith? How do you get saved? The questions themselves are simple. The answers, though, can occupy a lifetime if you want them to. Jesus was a master of asking questions. To the scribe who asked him how to inherit eternal life he asked “What is written in the Scriptures? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26). To the blind man who called out for mercy on the side of the road he asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk 10:51). To Peter and the disciples, after they’d recounted what other people were saying about Jesus, he asked “But who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:29). I love questions. In our

Sermon: Luke 24:13-35