Tag Archives: Resurrection

7 July – On being a better sinner

View or print as a PDF

Pentecost 4

Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 30
Matthew 2:7-15

In a sentence:
The true meaning and catastrophe of sin is known only to faith

I’d like to begin this morning with the observation that most of you are lousy sinners. By this I mean that you – and I with you – don’t sin very well. And this is a serious shortcoming for us all because it is the poverty of the quality of our sinning which is the source of our continuing fears and uncertainties in faith. The more accomplished our sin, the deeper will be our faith.

As a way into justifying why this might be the case, we let’s consider the relationship between our readings from Hosea and Matthew this morning. Those passages are linked by Matthew’s assessment of the Holy Family’s return from Egypt after taking refuge there from Herod. This looks like prophecy and fulfilment: while Hosea was in fact looking back to the Exodus, Matthew’s borrows ‘out of Egypt I called my son’ and makes it appear as if Hosea is looking forward: here is an old prophecy about Jesus, now fulfilled.

But Matthew’s borrowing from Hosea is much more significant than this; in fact, it is so significant as to change our reading of Hosea – and of ourselves – altogether. For Matthew does not claim a prophecy to be fulfilled in Jesus. Rather, he identifies what is called, technically, a ‘type’ in the Exodus from Egypt and links it to Jesus, the ‘antitype’. An antitype is an overlay of an event or person on an earlier one – on the type. This links the two in mutual interpretation, although ‘skewed’ towards the later. The type doesn’t look forward to the antitype, the first thing to the last, like a prophecy. The relationship only appears when the antitype, the last thing, appears. The Bible is full of this method of self-interpretation.

Matthew’s use of Hosea in this way enables him to cast Jesus as a kind of new Israel. Matthew also describes Herod’s killing of the Innocents, reflecting Pharaoh’s killing of the young boys in Egypt prior to the Exodus, and his portrayal of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount casts Jesus as a new Moses. ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ sends a signal about the nature and scope of what we meet in Jesus: here is the history of Israel in the process of being recapitulated.

But it is not merely a re-occurrence of what once happened. The antitype is the true reality of which the earlier type was a shadow. Or we might say that the type – the earlier event – is a memory of what has not yet happened.

This is easier to illustrate than to describe. Hosea 11 gives an account of the coming into covenant of God and Israel, then Israel’s turning away, the punishment, God’s longing for restoration and a promised reconciliation. Matthew’s casting of Jesus as Israel invites a comparison here: the intimate relationship between parent and child (the Father-Son relationship), a turning away and punishment (Good Friday), the longing of God for a restoration of the relationship (Easter Saturday), and the restoration itself (Easter Day). The life of Jesus from incarnation to the resurrection repeats the history of Israel as Hosea describes it.

But in a typological reading – the dynamic of type and antitype – Jesus’ experience from incarnation to resurrection is not an echo of Hosea’s account of Israel. Rather, Hosea’s account is an echo, or a memory, of what happens to Jesus.

That requires a bit of reflection because we are used to thinking of all which precedes Jesus as pointing to him, building up to him, so that what is remembered is how we got to that point. And perhaps there remains a sense in which this is so.

But the crucial point is this: while this section of Hosea is important for understanding who Jesus is, it is not as mere ‘illustration’ that Hosea relates to Jesus. Hosea’s preaching does not give us the clue to Jesus. Hosea relates to Jesus as a reflection of him, as a memory of him, now revealed as such because the truth of Jesus himself has been revealed. Jesus, then, gives us the clue to Hosea’s preaching. The rejection of God by Israel described in Hosea is the crucifixion of Jesus. The promised restoration is the resurrection of Jesus. Incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection are the meaning of what Hosea describes, accuses of and promises.

This is not mere theological trickery. The consequences of this way of thinking are, in fact, quite stunning – and now we come to why believing more profoundly makes better sinners of us.

We noted last week in Hosea’s 2750 year old text – and we experience every day of our lives here and now – that the promised restoration or resurrection by God has not occurred. This is to say that we and Hosea’s original audience reflect or echo the restoration and resurrection in Jesus imperfectly. It has happened for him but not yet fully for us. But this is also to say that our rejection of God has not properly occurred, that we also echo the crucifixion imperfectly.

Put differently, there is a sense in which we are not restored because we have not yet sinned well enough. This is clearly wrong… but we’ll stick with it for a moment to see whether it might still get us to where we need to go. To say that we have not yet sinned well enough is not to say that we haven’t – between us – managed to commit every sin which can be committed; we seem to have that covered. Committing sins is not problem but recognising what we do wrong as sin is a problem. That is, we do not really know ourselves as sinners. It is easy to know a moral failure, but moral failure is only half-sin. A half-sinner will only be half-reconciled to God, and so feel that the good, restorative things promised are still ‘not yet’.

If this is the case, what is required here is not a deeper ‘wallowing’ in sin or a talking-up of the sinfulness of human being. The understanding of sin is not a matter of heaping something up. The clue is found, again, in Jesus. Israel’s problem is that when it hears Hosea declare, ‘out of Egypt I called my son’, the people don’t really understand that it is them he refers to. The catastrophe is in the failure to be ‘son’ – child – to this divine mother, father – the failure to thrive in the peace of being lifted to this divine cheek and the failure to die after wriggling out of that embrace. What is lost is so central to their – and our – being that, once lost, it is no longer understood.

By contrast, on every page of the New Testament Jesus is the one who definitively hears and responds to the address ‘son.’ All that he is and does springs from that address and answers it. In crucifying this one, Israel denies the true form of sonship, the true form of intimate relationship with God. The sin of Israel, then, has no proper reference point for Israel itself. It is ‘mere’ sin, ‘mere’ distance from God. The only thing which can give sin its quality as sin – which can make us ‘high quality’ sinners rather than lousy ones – is a renewed experience of the intimacy with God. In the great parable, the prodigal son forgets what it means to be a son and imagines he is a servant (and the older brother makes the same mistake). This is the prodigal’s true sin, to which the waiting father answers ‘not servant, but son’. It is the light of such a restoration which reveals sin for what it was and will be if we allow ourselves that option again. Salvation makes real sinners of us – if redeemed sinners.

It is for this reason that the only real sin is the destruction in crucifixion of the Son of God as a son, as the child of God; every other sin is just a ‘memory’ or an ‘echo’ of this – not quite the real deal even if we can discern the pattern in it. And it is for this reason that the only thing which will deal with sin is the return of the Son, the return of such intimacy with God.

And so Jesus is raised, that the Son might be once more and that we might see and know and understand.

And so we break bread and bless a cup, and take to eat and drink, that together we might be that Son in our own re-Spirited flesh-and-blood life together.

Out of Egypt God calls us, to discover ourselves to be daughters and sons in the Son, to know our sin – and to know it behind us – and to rejoice.

By the grace of God, may such knowledge and joy be ever more deepened in all God’s people. Amen.

26 May – I believe in miracles

View or print as a PDF

Easter 6

Revelation 21:10, 22; 22:1-5
Psalm 67
John 14:23-29

In a sentence:
Jesus, crucified and risen, is the one miracle in which the church believes

Our Prime Minister believes in miracles. More than that, he has apparently recently witnessed one.

At the same time, critical analysis has felt less need to invoke divinity and has pinpointed clever or even cynical political strategy as the cause of the election ‘upset’. If there were anything miraculous about the election result, it looks like God had at least a little help.

It doesn’t much matter how serious the PM was in his remark; my interest this morning is that doubtless many have sent thanks heavenward for the outcome of the election, even as the political strategy is acknowledged. In the interests of full disclosure, no such thanksgiving has been heard from me, but my point this morning is not narrowly political but broadly theological: what is a miracle? To turn the matter around, would it have been ‘miraculous’ had the opposition been successful? Probably not, as many thought this to be the most likely scenario and miracles are not usually what we expect to happen. Still, many would hold that a Shorten government implementing its proposed policies would at least have been ‘good’, even excellent. And surely ‘and it was good’ denotes the miraculous.

To some extent we’re just playing with words here but it’s in an effort to give substance to the question of miracles, or to what is sometimes characterised as ‘divine intervention’. More put helpfully, Where and how is God active in the world? For talk of miracles is talk of the activity of God.

The Bible, of course, is full of miracle stories: an axe head floats, the sun stands still in the sky, and a little boy’s lunch feeds a great crowd. But the Bible is not a collection of historical ‘facts’ from which we deduce a few definitions or patterns in which to believe. What holds the Bible together is not similarities between the stories it contains or even common themes which might be discovered between the covers. What hold the Bible together is very covers themselves. Those covers have been put there by the church – that community which springs from the pre-biblical confession that the crucified and risen Jesus is Lord. It is the experience of continuing to engage with this Lord which causes the Bible and our ongoing engagement with it.

This is to say that, so far as miracles are concerned, the one determining miracle of the Bible is the resurrection of Jesus. Yet this needs to be qualified immediately because the resurrection looks too much like miracles looked ‘before’ the resurrection of Jesus(!). The resurrection looks to be ‘miraculous’ in itself, as might a dead-in-the-water government being returned to office.

But the resurrection is not like this, is not the most impressive of all the impressive miracles in the Scriptures. The qualification of the miraculous nature of the resurrection needed here is the totally un-miraculous-looking crucifixion, such that we must also say that the one determining miracle of the Bible is the crucifixion of Jesus.

There is, of course, apparently nothing miraculous about the crucifixion. It’s the ‘natural’ thing which happens when matters get a little too ‘out there’ for comfort, rather like what might be expected to happen to an opposition with too many new ideas for a loss-averse community.

Separated into mere history on the one hand and divine intervention on the other, the crucifixion and the resurrection become mere ‘seasons’, of the type we saw Ecclesiastes – a time for dying, a time for rising, a time for the Right, a time for the Left (Ecclesiastes 3.1-14; see the sermon for April 19). Elections are mere seasons. There are no miracles here – at least, nothing which endures – for history allows a time for everything. History buries all political messiahs without hope of (political) resurrection.

When the church as church gives thanks for God’s miraculous gifts, it is not for anything which comes and goes in the manner of the seasons. The quintessential thanksgiving of the church – found in the Great Prayer of the Eucharist – names the miracles of God as creation, redemption in cross and resurrection, and consummation of all things.

These defining miracles endure through the vagaries of history. And so, in seasons rich and poor, they are named as sources of peace, and this brings us finally to the Scripture text for this sermon!

The risen crucified Lord stands before his seasonally troubled disciples, and declares, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.’ ‘The world’ gives now peace, now division; now hope, now despair; now sunshine, now storms; a time for every politics under heaven.

Jesus does not give this way; what he offers here is not ‘with’ the times but through them – for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. The ‘my’ peace is crucial here, for the peace of Jesus is not the peace of the risen Jesus only but also the peace of the Jesus with a crucifixion looming in the near future. The miracle in which we are to believe is the peace which was Jesus’ own way in the world. His way was as a presence of the kingdom of God in a time and place in which that kingdom was apparently quite absent. The miracle of God is the possibility of peace in the midst a world which is apparently hopelessly divided.

This is not an easy miracle in which to believe, because it touches us here and now, in our own sense of the absence of God’s kingdom. To believe in such a miracle requires that we rise to the command we most desperately want to hear and obey, and yet find most difficult to hear and obey: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid’. This is not a word of ‘comfort’; it is no less a command than any other ‘do’ or ‘do not’ we read in the Scriptures.

As a command it is hard to hear because to let go of trouble and fear would be to rise to our responsibility to love and serve without reading the seasons as if they were signs of God’s power, without despair because of what has or has not happened, and without elation praising God for an accident of history.

Dis‑appointment ends when we recognise that our true appointment is to know who is God. To know who is God is to know what the miracle is which is being wrought: that, in life or in death, our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues loosed with a joy which will not end with a change of season, or an election, or even death itself. Any laughter or joy which might be ended by such passing things has known no true miracle, no deep good.

The miracle of this God is that, as much despite our efforts as because of them, God works our works to God’s own end. This end – in life and death, in wins and losses, in all things ‘under the sun’ – is a peace which passes understanding but under which we are to stand: to live and love and serve, testifying that even here the Father and the Son come to make their home with us.

May this peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus his Christ, now and always, Amen.

19 May – Not a politically correct God

View or print as a PDF

Easter 5

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
John 13:31-35

In a sentence:
God does not merely call us to love, but makes that love possible

The whole of the New Testament is written against the background of an unflinching belief in the resurrection of Jesus, not simply as a thing which was now ‘believed’ but as a thing which made a difference to the way we live and experience each other and the world. ‘Jesus is risen’ is code for ‘the world is now a whole other new place”.

The book of Acts, from which we hear quite a bit each year after Easter, looks like a history of what happened next after Easter. Yet, more than this, it is history as an account of the kind of thing which would necessarily take place if it were the case that Jesus was risen from the dead.

We can see the difference between a mere historical account of what happens next and the theological, resurrection-informed experience of what happened in the details of our reading this morning – in particular in the unexpected way in which Peter defends what happened in the house of Cornelius.

The crisis is that Peter seems to have transgressed the hard boundary between Jew and Gentile: ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?From the moral and ethical outlook of modern liberal western society it looks as if what Peter has done is ‘obviously’ the right thing. Most of us today hold that everyone should be treated equally, have the same rights, not be put down or otherwise mistreated, and so on.

Yet Peter does not offer a moral argument for his actions along these lines. Instead, he accounts for his actions by ‘blaming’ God. Speaking of his vision of being commanded to eat unclean foods, he quotes God:  ‘What I have made clean you must not declare profane.’ The reason for the breaking down of this barrier – that between Jew and Gentile – is not liberal ethics but divine command. Peter doesn’t know about the ‘brotherhood of man’ or any such thing; ‘God made me do it’ is the reason he gives for doing what we would consider simply to be the clear moral choice.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the moral ideals we have about everyone being equally human to everyone else. It is just that that is not what our text is about. The Cornelius incident is about what was thought to be a God-imposed distinction between Jew and Gentile now being overcome by God. And so the resolution of the dispute back in Jerusalem is not, ‘Ah, yes, of course the Gentiles are people too! How foolish of us!’ Rather, the Jewish Christians turn to the praise of God saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’

In the election of Abraham and Sarah as patriarch and matriarch of the people of God there is actually nothing to suggest that God’s love for this people means God’s hatred or exclusion of all other peoples. In fact, just the opposite is found in the covenant with Abraham: ‘through you will all peoples be blessed’ (Or, ‘will all peoples bless themselves’, depending on the translation.)  But there had developed a very sharp distinction in the minds of the Jews by the time of Jesus, so that Peter could say to the Gentile Cornelius, ‘Even you yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile’ (Acts 10.28).

This distinction had taken on God-proportions, and its violation was understood to have consequences for a person’s standing before God (in terms of ritual cleanness). It doesn’t go too far to say that, for pious Jews of the time, God required of them their self-isolation from Gentiles – it had become to be understood to be divinely instituted. And so it would have felt to Peter that God was changing God’s own rule here: God was contradicting what had being held, and held for the sake of God.

And now we can see how this is an event which has to do with the resurrection of Jesus, and so with the power of God, and not simply with human ethics. For it was for God’s sake – as an act of piety – that Jesus was executed, because he was perceived to be a threat to the religious and political safety of the people. The resurrection, then, is God standing against God, God in heaven contradicting the God in our hearts, revealing that the two are not the same and that we are serving the wrong one.

When God pours out the Holy Spirit on the household of Cornelius the resurrection happens again: God raises the dead. Only, those who are raised are not just Cornelius but Peter and, later, the other believers back in Jerusalem. These are raised in the sense we know from Saint Paul, who describes this God as the one who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which did not exist. What ‘did not exist’ for Peter and the other Jewish Christians was that God’s work in Christ had anything to do with the Gentiles, for how could it? ‘It is unlawful for a Jew to associate with Gentiles…’

But now that Christ clearly did have something to do with the

Gentiles, a new beginning met with a new understanding and the dead were raised, eyes were opened, and God was glorified.

If we take away from the story of Peter and Cornelius only the message that God loves everyone and so we ought to too, then we render the story irrelevant because it tells us nothing most of us don’t already know. Perhaps more problematically, this seems to imply that such love is actually possible – that we ought to be ‘able’ to love each other, and so to usher in the kingdom.

But the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem praise God for what Cornelius experienced, and we must take this with utter seriousness. The implication is not simply that we should be loving and accepting of each other but that such love and acceptance begins as a work of God.

This being the case, we might also note that the rather modern notion of ‘love and acceptance’ doesn’t really fit the story, or isn’t rich enough for the story. For the Gentiles are not given a mere welcome but a repentance: ‘… God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life’ (11.18). The love of God is that the loved are now free, or even ‘allowed’, to change. Their humanity is indeed recognised but so also its deficiencies; God’s ‘love’ is here the possibility of repentance, and not of mere ‘inclusion’.

So neither the Jews nor the Gentiles are the ‘good guys’ here, or the victims. Borrowing again from Paul, all have fallen short of the glory of God. This is the accusation, the ‘bad news’ of the gospel.

But the important thing is that the accusation is a diminishing echo which sounds after the ‘big bang’ – the moment of creation – the act of resurrecting grace which stands Peter and Cornelius and all they represent on an equal footing of being loved, forgiven and accepted by God.

And so it is, as we sang in our opening hymn, that we pray that we might love, and see whatever love we might manage as an answer to prayer – the acts of today’s apostles, working out the logic of the resurrection of Jesus, to the glory of God.

For the benefit of all God’s people, may this prayer be ever on our lips, and find its answer in the faithfulness of the God who keeps his promises by making it possible for us to love one another.


21 April – The wind blows where it wills – the vanity of the Christ

View or print as a PDF

Easter Day

Ecclesiastes 8:6-8
Psalm 118
John 20:1-18

In a sentence:
The risen Jesus only confounds us because Jesus in his entirety confounded us

The stark world of Qohelet, the teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes, is not much different from our own, except in the brutal honesty with which he receives it.

Central to his account of life ‘under the sun’ has been the linked notions of ‘vanity’ and ‘chasing after wind’. On a first, fourth and tenth reading, these are clearly negative categories.

Yet reading him as we have – with the set gospel for each Sunday – they have emerged also with surprising positive connotations, even with significance for illuminating the gospel and the very character of God. On the first of these reflections on Qohelet I half-seriously tossed out the notion that bringing him into dialogue with the gospel might lead us to dare to speak of ‘the vanity of the cross’ which, by any other accounting, could only be impiety.

And yet that is where we have ended up – on Friday the vanity of the crucifixion and, today, the vanity of the Christ. What is crucial – literally, what ‘crux-ial’, ‘of the cross’ (Latin crux: ‘cross) – here is that for Qohelet, vanity is less a matter of vain emptiness and closer the literal meaning of the Hebrew, ‘vapour’ or ‘mist’. It is ‘ungraspability’ – pertaining to things which cannot be comprehended. The negative sense of this is the futile attempt to grasp the ungraspable world in pleasure, in wisdom or in work, in calculation or scheming.

But beyond this is a positive ungraspability: the very mystery of the world as God’s world, and so of God Godself. All that is and happens comes from God but it is not comprehendible how that is the case. God is just, and justifies, but the world is not and does not. Yet this remains God’s world, and we are given to live in it. This is ungraspability as a characteristic of the God-and-world thing itself. It cannot be denied, but just what and how it is cannot be said.

Something similar happens with ‘chasing after wind’. Negatively, this is the comic image of someone actually trying to catch the wind. But, positively, there is something at the heart of what we are which causes us to grasp after the wind, however comic that must be. We heard from Qohelet on Friday that God has put knowledge in us – the King James Version says, ‘he hath set the world in their heart, so that [none] can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. (3.11). Chasing after wind is the necessary yet impossible thing: the felt need to grasp the ungraspable world and its ungraspable God.

It is, perhaps, not for nothing that the book of Ecclesiastes is framed by the compounded ‘vanity of vanities’ (1.2; 12.8): the world is ungraspable, and yet what else do we do but seek to grasp it? Vanity for vanity. Qohelet has to affirm and deny at the same time.

– – – – – – – – – –

We have heard this morning of Mary Magdalene, left behind in the garden by the tomb. Here she encounters – but does not recognise – the risen Jesus. It’s tempting – and typical – to imagine that grief obscures her vision, that she does not recognise Jesus because her eyes are filled with tears and the world is just a blur. But John doesn’t write history like this; psychology and physiology and physics – as we think about them – are nothing here. Mary not recognising Jesus is about him, not about her: he cannot be seen directly; he is ‘vanity’: vapour, mist, ungraspable, ablur.

The world is turned upside down not by vision but by a word: ‘Mary’. She is caught by the wind, and then comes the recognition: ‘Rabbouni’, or, Teacher (perhaps only coincidentally one of the translations English Bibles use for the name ‘Qohelet’…).

This is not yet what we might call ‘conversion’. Mary has heard and – now in that sense – sees something, but she has not grasped what has happened. She feels the wind, but has not grasped him. And there’s a sense in which she cannot: ‘Do not hold onto me’, Jesus tells her. It seems to her possible to grasp the risen Jesus – is he not just there, in reach? It is in this way that she ‘feels’ the wind.

But he resists. And this is not a ‘cringe’. Jesus does not fear her touch, as if she would contaminate him. And he is not in some way ‘charged’, that he might wound her if she touched him. ‘Do not hold me’ is ‘you cannot hold me’. Ungraspability – the best of Qohelet’s ‘vanity’ – is a characteristic of the risen Jesus and what he brings: ‘No one has power over the wind to restrain it’ (8.8).

This is not a ‘mystical’ thing – Jesus is not now special in a way that he was not before. This risen Jesus is the same Jesus she knew before, and the revelation in the garden is that Mary did not really know him before, as he might yet be known.

The story of the resurrection typically seems to us to present the problem of a violation of the times, to recall what we heard from Qohelet on Friday. The report of the resurrection troubles us because the time for living is over, and now death has its time: for everything there is a season.

We cannot come fruitfully to the resurrection from this perspective. It is sheer violation and is excluded by the prior conviction that time – or nature – can only unfold in one way, from a living Jesus to a dead one. We can imagine that there was a Jesus who said and did what is reported. We can imagine him being crucified. There are times for such things. But the risen Jesus eludes us, for such a risen Jesus is not so much ungraspable as impossible. If we start with a time for every purpose under heaven, we cannot get to the resurrection.

But the gospel itself makes a different case: it is not the times which give Jesus his possible shapes but Jesus who gives shape to the times. If, as the gospels assert, it was the same Jesus now risen who yesterday was dead and the day before still alive – then the dead Jesus and the once-Jesus before the cross are everything the risen Jesus is. There is no distinction: in the cradle, on the cross and under the crown as risen lord (cf. the Christmas carol, TIS 321), Jesus is the same miraculous thing. Incarnation at Christmas and Resurrection at Easter are separated only by that ticking of a clock which separates one happening from another. Time does not bind them, they are the bounds of time.

To say, then, ‘Jesus is risen’ is only to say ‘the Word became flesh’. But the ‘only’ is the clincher, the shock of Jesus’ ungraspability by Mary, or by us. ‘The Word become flesh’ seems to most believers to be easy in comparison to ‘Jesus is risen’. Yet there the great ‘Christmas-y’ prologue to John’s gospel means nothing without Mary’s confusion, her seeing that what is in front of her and cannot quite be grasped was always in front of her. It has now simply been displaced a little in time.

The ungraspability of Jesus-as-the-Christ – and now we dare to say, the ‘vanity’ of the Christ – is not his waft-y nature as a risen body or spirit. It is that he was ever the very presence of God, from the very first. What Mary thought she had seen before was just a shimmer on the surface of the real substance of Jesus. Now she is confronted with him as he has always been, and the difference between then and now is the difference between death and life.

‘You cannot hold on to me,’ the wind cannot be restrained. And yet this is good news because not holding, not grasping onto, not chasing after, yields all the gospel: Jesus goes where we cannot go, and the effect is that all that is his becomes ours: ‘my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’ The not-grasping of Jesus brings Jesus’ own eternity as our own.

And so Mary herself will begin to shimmer, and we with her. Those who are in such an ungraspable Christ are beginning to take flight.

This is the thought with which we ended on Friday: to be caught up by the unrestrained wind which is Jesus, is to fly. We will end the service today with the same thought from Charles Wesley,

Soar we now where Christ hath led,
following our exalted head;
made like him, like him we rise,
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

Jesus is risen.

Life begins to shimmer.

Time being renewed so, there is nothing better to do, Qohelet tells us, than to eat and drink, and enjoy.

2 December – Advent: risen to a new hope

View or print as a PDF

Advent 1

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25
Luke 21:25-36

In a sentence:
Hope raises dry belief

Advent is the season the church devotes to reflection on the promised approach of God, an approach which is often depicted in the Scriptures as we heard of it today – in apocalyptic language.

Whatever we might make of that way of thinking, it is worth noting that the modern notion of ‘apocalypse’ has moved considerably from the biblical sense. The word itself means simply ‘revelation’; the book of Revelation is sometimes called ‘the Apocalypse’ for this reason. Around this anticipated end-time unveiling the Bible depicts a range of extraordinary and – frankly – terrifying events.

Contemporary talk of an apocalypse usually corresponds only to the apocalyptic events themselves to the terror – and not to the revelation. Thus we might speak of an ‘Apocalypse Now’ – a nuclear apocalypse or an ecological apocalypse, by which we designate scale and intensity and effect.

This is clear enough to us as we use the word in its common sense but what might be less clear is that the effect of an apocalypse – understood in this way – is silence. The bomb has gone off, the biosphere has collapsed, worlds have collided and suddenly there is neither voice to be heard nor ear to hear it. There is only darkness, smoke and dust.

Yet, though the scale and intensity of the imagery of scriptural apocalyptic is great, it doesn’t anticipate silence. Those events anticipate a word, an address, a showing-forth. The force of the imagery is not violent destruction in itself, not the fire or the storm or the earthquake, but rather pushes to the force of the word to be clearly spoken. This is a world-shaking word but nonetheless one which the speaker expects will be heard because there will be ears to hear it.

The question biblical apocalyptic poses, then, is not how can such things be in the Bible but what is the word to be heard through them? If God is coming, what are we to anticipate?

The answer to this is simply that we wait for the revealing of God’s ways, as our psalmist today put it (Psalm 25). This is the revelation of God and of ourselves as we are – properly – together.

Now this is correct so far as it goes but we have not yet said enough, because it could all quite easily have been said by a ‘Before Christ’ Jew, and we are ‘Anno Domini’ Christians. What Jesus does and what happens to Jesus changes talk about God and ourselves, and God’s coming to us.

And so the apocalyptic event of the New Testament is not what Jesus foretells in our text today but what finally happens to him himself: the resurrection (resurrection being an apocalyptic category). Resurrection was not then – as it is typically now – the mere idea that the dead might stop being dead. Talk of resurrection arose from particular needs and led to particular anticipations: resurrection talk had a particular purpose linked to the purpose of apocalyptic thinking. The apocalypse would reveal the ways of God but not just to those who are still standing when the time comes. We wonder whether the dead can be raised but for apocalyptic thinking they have to be raised in order that we all might see the ways of God with us: the book God has written out of our stories (to recall our thinking from last week). Resurrection – at least in the Bible – is about revelation.

Talk of a resurrection in this context, then, is talk of the beginning of the end. The resurrection of Jesus is not a one-off thing in itself, an abstracted curiosity. In that context it heralds the approach of God. In this way, the resurrection is an ‘Advent’ event.

And this brings us to a surprising recurrence in the gospel narratives. On the one hand, the resurrection of Jesus heralds the approaching reign of God – the end has begun.

Yet, on the other hand, this is precisely where Jesus’ public ministry began, when everything was getting going and neither cross nor resurrection were in sight: ‘the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near’ (Mark 1.14f; Luke puts this differently – cf. Luke 4.14-21) – the end has begun.

Jesus’ ministry begins with a heralding of the approach of the reign of God, and ends in the same way. Yet the kingdom doesn’t get nearer in the resurrection than it was in the early preaching, simply because a little more time has passed. Rather, that point is that, in being raised, the dead Jesus simply does what the living Jesus had done from the beginning: heralds the approach of God, the ‘kingdom come’ (-ing).

To push this a little further: for the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus on the one hand and, on the other hand, the preaching and ministry of Jesus (as the signs of the nearness of God) – these are the same thing. The New Testament’s answer to the question, Is God coming? is the same as its answer to the question, Is Jesus risen?

This is not a connection we often make, even as Christians. We find it easier to hold to the teaching of Jesus and to let the matter of the resurrection hang as an open question. Yet this is to miss the connection between them. Whatever the resurrection is, it does what the teachings do; whatever the teachings are they do what the resurrection does. What they each do is introduce hope into the world, a hope that God is yet coming, with ‘more’, with peace.

The difference between holding to Jesus’ teachings only and holding them in relation to the resurrection is the difference between belief and hope. Belief knows that there ‘is’ a God and knows some things about God. Belief can be greatly committed to godliness in thought and action. It can also be closed to God’s ‘more’.

Hope is repentant belief, belief which looks for yet more. The God of hope exceeds the God of belief; the God of hope is Spirit, which cannot be tied down. This is why Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry links the approach of God to repentance: the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news – a word to believers. This is why the risen Jesus sends the Spirit. And it is why, in our gospel reading this morning, the coming apocalypse is good news: ‘when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

That God’s redemption is drawing near is the meaning of every action of those in Christ, whose every action had just that meaning. We do not merely believe. We hope, we wait for yet more light and truth, and we shape our lives now – in words and actions – to be ready for when it comes and to show others what they too, might look for.

Jesus is risen, God is coming: Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

23 September – Dying to live

View or print as a PDF

Pentecost 18

Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Mark 8:31-38

In a sentence:
That the life of Jesus, even the cross, is true life

Our gospel reading for today – the second part of what was set for last week – is often identified as a turning point in the telling of the story of Jesus.

Up to this point in Mark’s narrative, the question of Jesus’ identity has been constantly in play; now Jesus hears the word ‘Messiah’ on Peter’s lips and seems happy to allow it to go unchallenged – the identity of Jesus is established.

The narrative now turns from establishing Who Jesus is to the Whither and Why of Jesus. The confession of Peter, then – (heard last week) – together with the new orientation toward Jerusalem and the cross, are a turning point in the story.

But there is another sense in which this passage is pivotal. This is in that the story is not merely a story – an account of what Jesus did, and then did next. What Jesus did and what happens to him is now extended to what will happen to those who would count themselves his disciples: ‘those who would follow me must deny themselves, take up their own cross and follow.’ This amounts to those disciples ‘losing’ their life also.

As confronting as it is, we must see that this is not a simple recognition by Jesus of the familiar way of things – that, if he gets whacked, so also will his followers. Suffering by association happens often enough but how the politics might unfold is not a central interest of the gospel; it is only the background.

The link between the cross of Jesus and the cross of his followers speaks to the nature of the work which Jesus does in the first place, and where he does it. The work of Jesus is perhaps not best characterised, in the first instance, as ‘saving’ us. His first work is to live the life of a free human person, open to God and open to those among whom he is placed. We’ve noted before (e.g., Sunday July 29 2018) that the cross of Jesus is not the point of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ life is the point of his life; this is what an open human life looks like.

The call to follow Jesus, then, is not a primarily a call to hard work or to suffering, as if such things in themselves were redemptive and even if it will involve suffering. The call is primarily a call to life – eyes and heart wide open to the dangers and the possibilities of a human life, and taking up the richest of those possibilities despite the dangers. Taking up one’s cross is living – truly, freely, openly, lovingly – in the time and place in which we find ourselves. Anything less than this is what Jesus calls losing our life, even if our hearts are still beating. It is to be a shadow, a hollow casing for an experience which should have been there but has been eroded away by ignorance or fear.

And so today’s reading from Mark is a turning point not only because the story changes direction here, but because Jesus’ own calling is revealed also to be our call. Peter’s objection last week – that the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus could not possibly happen – was an objection not only that the Messiah was above all this. Peter rejected any notion that such might also be the fate of Peter himself.

For there is something ‘distant’ about the Messiah in Peter’s unbaptised understanding. For him – and for us whom he represents – the saviour is a ‘thing’, a prized possession which we hold, a charm which protects us from whatever threatens, an airbag against colliding with life. Such a charm changes the world but it does not change us. This is what merely valuable things do; at best they confirm us but they do not change us.

In a poem fragment from John Donne he speaks of the difference between this and the twist the gospel requires of Peter’s understanding; (writing of Christ:)

He was all gold when He lay down, but rose
All tincture, and doth not alone dispose
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is
Of power to make e’en sinful flesh like his.
(‘Resurrection, Imperfect’)

‘He was all gold when He lay down’ – that is, as gold, he was a valuable thing, a purchase on the world, a security: ‘you are the Messiah, and such things can never happen to you’.

‘…but he rose / All tincture’. A tincture is a substance used to colour a metal – to change its appearance. Donne’s point is that Jesus is not simply precious – which is what Peter holds. Rather, Jesus makes us like him, although not merely in appearance: for Christ does

…not alone dispose
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is
Of power to make e’en sinful flesh like his.

The call of Jesus is not that we believe in him, in the sense of believing a thing about him. We do not believe merely that he is ‘gold’. The call is to become before God as Jesus himself is before God: to become flesh like his flesh.

If this is the call of God, then it is also the gift of God.

This is why we speak of the church as the body of Christ. The church is not merely ‘a’ body – a body politic. It is this body: the body of Jesus. (From the weekly liturgy:) ‘Let us receive what we are, let us become what we receive – the body of Christ’: the emphasis – and this is your part to emphasise! – falls on those last two words.

Acknowledging that this is not always a comfortable gift, St Paul puts it this way:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8.28; cf. also 2 Corinthians 3.18)

This is not different from what Jesus describes in his talk about taking up our cross. To follow Jesus – even in costly ways – is to begin to look like him, to be free as he is, to be open to God as he is.

To follow Jesus is to have the things we might normally fear – which is death in all its lived forms – behind us.

To be growing into such a life, then, is to begin to look like someone who has been raised from the dead.

And when that kind of thing happens, not merely the gospel narrative but the world itself comes to its own turning point, and changes forever.

Let us, then, take up the call to follow wherever Jesus might lead, and watch God transform the world.

17 December – The God who brings death and life

View or print as a PDF

Advent 3

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Good news to the oppressed, binding up of the broken-hearted, proclamation of liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners; a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; the garments of salvation, a robe of righteousness, a garland, jewels…

The word of promise in this language is surely extraordinary in the ears of those who have lived through hell. Isaiah proclaims a great reversal, a turning upside-down of the experience of the people of God – the return of God to their midst as blessing.

But what about those for whom the world is not horrific, for whom life’s biggest challenge is along the lines of negotiating a shopping centre carpark a few days before Christmas or waiting out a kitchen renovation? What does Isaiah have to say to any whose life is largely devoid of oppression or ashes or unrighteousness? Because, for most of us – in and out of the church – life is mostly ok most of the time, and so Isaiah’s proclamation comes like icing on what was already a pretty good cake.

One way of hearing Isaiah under these circumstances is to imagine that he speaks not to us, but as us: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me,” or us. The word to us becomes our own word and, going further, we take it upon ourselves not simply to speak of the coming of God but to be those who realise God’s peace. We have received the Spirit, and we are to pay that forwards, for others.

Certainly, those who “have” are under a moral obligation to share and bless those who have not. But if this is all it’s about, then there is no possibility that God has anything more to say to us. Is there a word of the Lord – a blessing, heart-raising word – for the relaxed and mostly comfortable?

The question of our redemption is not pressing today, either in the church or in society more generally. Certainly we are constantly working towards something, and something better than we what we presently know but this kind of progress is not the business of Christian worship or faith. The heart of our confession is not the offer of a nudge from worse to bad, or bad to good, or good to better. We speak, rather, of life out death, of the creation of something out of nothing. Christian faith is, at heart, concerned with miracles, with the impossible. For when God comes, what he brings is not only the kind of healing we think we need but also revelation of the full extent of that need. In the breadth of Isaiah’s preaching God speaks such words of comfort as we read in worship this time of year, but also divine rage and accusation against the people for things about themselves they would scarcely recognise or be aware of.

When God comes, it is always as life out of death, as creation out of nothing. This means that when God comes it is always with bad news as well as with the good, the good revealing the bad. The broken-hearted may not know, or have acknowledged, that indeed their hopes have been dashed; the captives not know that they are imprisoned, the comfortable not know just how insecure they are.

We mark just this dynamic in our worship each week. We call on God, whether we are feeling we need God or not. We hear that we are forgiven, often of things we had not imagined we were guilty of. Perhaps quintessentially, we gather around a table at which is served a victim through whom salvation is somehow won.

All of this “works”, however, only to the extent that the bad comes with the good. If we speak of the coming of resurrection, we speak also about the coming of death. But we have to be careful here. The proclamation of resurrection is not for the dying but for the dead. We noted last week that we all know that we are dying. This knowledge, however – our mere mortality – is not the question answered by resurrection. Resurrection reveals death – a death we do not yet know – it does not merely nudge us through what we already know. Resurrection doesn’t answer our sense for death because we have not yet asked the question well enough, despite our mourning and ashes, as real as they are. The resurrection with which the church is concerned is that which identifies who is dead, including us dead who are still walking.

This is enacted also in the Eucharist. The Eucharist “works” only to the extent that we who receive the body and blood admit a culpability in its having been broken and spilt. There is no “nudge” here into a better life by taking a spiritual medicine which treats some disease in us, and so which could be substituted for a generic brand which is not called “body” and “blood”. The ritual kills in the accusation of our complicity in death, and raises in the creative grace of God. Death is but a means by which God can bless; the Eucharist is death and resurrection – Jesus’, and our own.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Isaiah proclaims, with the emphasis falling on the spirit, and not on the “me”. For it is the spirit of the Lord which creates and renews the face of the earth. This is the light John announced, which enlightens everyone (John 1.9), even those who do not yet know they are living in shadows. When God comes, the dark places appear and are flooded with light. And God is coming.

For this spirit, this light, all thanks be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always. Amen.

BasisBits – Paragraph 7: Baptism


BasisBits Logo - 2 WITHOUT S

The Uniting Church acknowledges that Christ incorporates people into his body by Baptism. In this way Christ enables them to participate in his own baptism, which was accomplished once on behalf of all in his death and burial, and which was made available to all when, risen and ascended, he poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Baptism into Christ’s body initiates people into Christ’s life and mission in the world, so that they are united in one fellowship of love, service, suffering and joy, in one family of the Father of all in heaven and earth, and in the power of the one Spirit. The Uniting Church will baptize those who confess the Christian faith, and children who are presented for baptism and for whose instruction and nourishment in the faith the Church takes responsibility.

From Paragraph 7 of the Basis of Union (1992)


Download a high-quality image of this BasisBit for insertion into your pew sheet


BasisBits are intended particularly for congregations of the Uniting Church in Australia but could be easily adapted for general use by congregations of other denominations. The suggested use of BasisBits is as items in the “news” section of your Sunday pew sheets or regular congregational publications; some would lend themselves to incorporation into your liturgy order itself.

BasisBits – Paragraph 3: Built Upon the One Lord Jesus Christ A


BasisBits Logo - 2 WITHOUT S

The Uniting Church acknowledges that the faith and unity of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church are built upon the one Lord Jesus Christ. The Church preaches Christ the risen crucified One and confesses him as Lord to the glory of God the Father. In Jesus Christ “God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19 RSV). In love for the world, God gave the Son to take away the world’s sin.

From Paragraph 3 of the Basis of Union (1992)


Download a high-quality image of this BasisBit for insertion into your pew sheet


BasisBits are intended particularly for congregations of the Uniting Church in Australia but could be easily adapted for general use by congregations of other denominations. The suggested use of BasisBits is as items in the “news” section of your Sunday pew sheets or regular congregational publications; some would lend themselves to incorporation into your liturgy order itself.

19 April – “No one who abides in [Christ] sins”

View or print as a PDF

Easter 3

1 John 3:1-10
Psalm 4
Luke 24:36b-48

“No one who abides in [Christ] sins”. Let that rest for a moment on the surface of your mind: “No one who abides in [Christ] sins”. The Bible says it. Can we believe it?

Most of us are likely to feel a little uncomfortable about this, and all the more so when we discover that it is no mere slip on John’s part. Elsewhere in the epistle we hear similar things: “Those who have been born of God do not sin, because the seed of God abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God” (3.9).“We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them” (5.18).

What makes us feel uncomfortable about this, in the first place, is that we know Christians – we know ourselves – and so we “know” John can’t be right. There are too many undeniable failures to ignore, and many Christians are more than happy to acknowledge the fact: “not perfect, just forgiven” (declares one of our less helpful bumper stickers).

But, if we weigh up the possibilities fully, there enters another reason why we might be uncomfortable about John’s confident declaration about sinless believers: if John is right, then we who purport to believe must wonder whether indeed we are those who “abide” in Christ. In fact, if we allow these words their scriptural status, the simplest way to make sense of what John says right here is to conclude that those we call “Christians” – ourselves or others – are not who John means when he speaks of those abiding in Christ.

John, then, seems to present to us two possibilities (or at least he does for those of us who imagine ourselves to be believers): either John is wrong about believers and sin, which perhaps presents us with problems about the authority of scripture on this matter, or he is right, which forces us out of the picture.

Yet this is too simplistic. If we are going to claim our status as Christians who somehow belong to God, we will object that surely John writes to someone, to some real, historical group of believers, and surely they are not that different from us. And in fact, just this is acknowledged in other parts of the epistle: 1.8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us… 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 2.1“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…” 5.16 “If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one…”

On the one hand, then, there are those who are “called the children of God” (3.1), in fact who are the children of God now (3.2), who “abide in him” and so cannot sin. On the other hand, these same ones have sinned, may sin, and indeed do continue to sin, As such, John calls them lawless and so “children of the devil”.

What are we to make of all this?

We might dismiss it all as religious doublespeak which says yes and no at the same time, pretending that this actually stands for something. Or we might call for “balance” – trying to say a little bit of a yes and a little bit of a no, although in fact we’ll end up saying more of one than the other. Both approaches make some sense of what is seemingly gobbledygook.

But if, instead of trying to transform what John says into something which makes sense for us, we allow him to transform how we think, we will discover something much more interesting than what we already know, something which breaks through the barriers of knowledge which limit us.

While Easter is now quite forgotten for another year by the wider world, for the church it is still here, and is ever with us. As we noted on Easter Sunday: either the proclamation of the resurrection is a game-changer or it is nothing. The word “resurrection” implies that the dead might no longer stay where we put them. But this is not for the New Testament a mere fact. Death is fundamental to human experience and our measure of ourselves. If death is upset, then everything is upset: a new world order is imaged, and faith is a re-imaging – a re-image-ining – of ourselves after that sign.

What John presents to us in our reading from the epistle this morning springs from just such a re-imagining. The resurrection of Jesus may seem to be nowhere in sight in this text, yet all of the New Testament is a description of life in the world from the point of view that Jesus has been raised. What really confronts us here is not the surface issue of doublespeak about sinless people who sin, or children of God who are also children of the devil. Though it is nowhere explicit in our reading, the “problem” John causes for us rests in his confidence that Jesus has been raised from the dead. This is a problem because of all those who might have been raised from the dead, Jesus was the least expected. We have noted before how this contradicts our inherited religious sensitivities after centuries of “Christian” moralistic conditioning. In the crucifixion Jesus is judged – named – as blasphemer. He is then, so far as any can see, a moral failure. His naming and bearing of himself was apparently wrong, and his persecutors were simply fulfilling their religious duty in demanding his execution.

The resurrection is the re-naming of Jesus, now by God. The resurrection declares, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased”. (These words, borrowed from the baptism and Transfiguration narratives, are – in those places – actually resurrection statements. This is because, if there is not resurrection, there is no ongoing interest in Jesus [who is “proven” blasphemer], and so no “recording” of the baptism of Jesus or the Transfiguration). A shift takes place from our naming of Jesus to God’s naming of him.

What has this to do with anything? We began by noting that we name ourselves as Christians, and yet John seems to say that such as we do not sin, and yet we do often seem to sin, so that John makes little sense. But who names us, and how, is at the heart of the confusion. In our naming of ourselves, we end up with a great complex of contradictory hyphenated names: Mr Christian-Sinner (whether the sexually abusive priest or the congregational gossip); Dr Religious-Atheist, who professes no belief in “god” but whose life is thoroughly determined by influences she scarcely recognizes, let alone acknowledges; Mrs Selfish-Giver, who gives time and money more for the recognition this gets her than for those in need; Miss Capitalist-Greenie, whose radical eco-Tweets are made from a phone built in a far-away place under slave-like conditions. Our attempts to name ourselves create a thoroughgoing moral confusion from which we cannot extract ourselves, such that hypocrisy – that sharpest of critiques which can be made of anyone who commits to any statement of themselves – is unavoidable.

At this level of our experience, the only recourse is self-justification. With this, if we are honest, comes anxiety. Am I more “Christian” than sinner, more socialist than capitalist, more generous than selfish, more what I publically profess than what I permit myself in private? This is not necessarily a religious anxiety about whether I’m “saved” or will inherit eternal life. It is a thoroughly and broadly human phenomenon: am I safe from what might threaten me, whether the dangerous thing which might over-run me or, more importantly here, that I might be discovered not to be who I’ve presented myself to be. These are the fruits of our naming of ourselves. We are more – and less – than we can say, and that difference between what we say and what we are creates anxiety.

But the good news which is the gospel is that God speaks to us our true name: God fundamentally “defines” us. “Children of God” is a name given us by God, and not by ourselves: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God” (3.1). This is a surprise for John. We are so familiar with it that it’s almost meaningless, just another self-designation. The surprise is in that what we have understood ourselves to be is enveloped within something which is not only more comprehensive but also healing and liberating: God renames us – and remakes us – according to the name he has for Jesus – Son, “child”.

While we might presume to call ourselves children of God, only God can make us his children, because to be a child of God is to be as Jesus is to the Father (cf. 5.1,18), and this is unknown to us until God makes it known by doing it (3.1b) – showing us what this relationship looks like, what it can overcome. To say that God “loves” us is to say that the Father does just this – makes his life our life by taking the name he has for the Son and letting it be the name he has for us: “children”.

This is both our present reality, and our future reality. In the experience of Jesus we learn that we are loved by the Father as children, and yet in the Spirit of Jesus we are still being loved into that reality. Thus we hear the strange but necessary call: become what you are. John says (paraphrase): We are God’s children now, and yet we do not know what that actually looks like. All we know is that we will be like Christ (3.2) This being “like Christ” is not a moral state – being without sin – but is the state of being a child of God, sharing in the life the Son enjoys with the Father. In this we are purified (3.3), because it does not depend upon what we do and our trying to make a claim on God through that. It depends on God’s claim on us.

In this way it is not so much that we do not occasionally – or very regularly – sin. It is rather that this sin does not define us, is not our completion. Sin, which looms so large in much Christian-speak, is now set to one side as a secondary thing: merely the sign that we are not yet become what we are. (This archaic English construction [still present in German, French] – “are not become” – seems somehow to capture something more than the more familiar “have not become”, marking the becoming as ever a present [“are”] process). Not our actions, our demonstrating of ourselves, our naming of ourselves, but God’s, is what matters: You are my son, my daughter, in whom I will be well pleased.

This is the gospel, and our calling is to begin to look like it is true.

By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, may this ever being re-shaped into the humanity of the Father’s Son become ever more manifest in us, to God’s greater glory and our greater life and freedom. Amen.

« Older Entries