Fourth Sunday in Advent – Love

Advent 4And so the set of four Advent candles have been lit.

Candles of anticipation – hope, peace, joy and, finally, love.

The Australian community has been galvanised in the aftermath of three unspeakable acts of violence – the Martin Place siege, the Peshawar school massacre, and a family tragedy in Cairns.

Amidst crowd reactions of grief, sorrow and miscomprehension, we have seen love arising. Words of comfort and focus have emerged as closest relatives addressed the population. An inevitable backlash against scapegoats has been tempered by the spontaneous and viral #illridewithyou campaign. Someone noted that riding public transport is no longer anonymous as people, sharing a common sense of loss, no longer lose themselves in phone and tablet screens but become more willing to engage one another.

The popular Gosford Anglican “wayside pulpit” sums it all up: “SYDNEY, PESHAWAR, CAIRNS: #LETTHEREBELIGHT”.  The Advent gift of love is never really far below the surface. Momentous events that peel back the superficial reveal the potential for communities to recalibrate and express their potency for good. And we are now ready to receive and contemplate once more the momentous event of Incarnation which embodies two trending hashtags – #illridewithyou and #lettherebelight.

Advent Voices: Ancient voices

The persistent call to rest on ancient promises mingles with the clamour of contemporary conversations.
We have Ethan the Ezrahite, an Advent voice from the reign of Solomon to thank for Psalm 89


Advent Voices: a candle in the dark

candleAdvent draws expectant attention to an arrival of one divinely anointed to fix the mess we’re in. It’s a season that both highlights the chaos of a violent world and the pregnant promise of its resolution. Advent’s themes are in tension – no more so this week than when the siege in Sydney and the horrendous Peshawar school massacre heightened the world’s sensitivities. Can the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love really win through? Expressions of community solidarity gave life to the maxim “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

This morning’s text from Romans16:25-27 serves a similar “lighting of the candle” function. It is sometimes repeated at the conclusion of church services as worshippers prepare to leave the sanctuary to return to the chaos of everyday living.

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.

A call for a new multilateral refugee policy


A statement from my church…

Originally posted on The Downs Church:

Notwithstanding today’s welcome news of a reprieve for 31 Australian born babies and their families destined for Nauru detention, and that they will now remain in Australia for processing of claims to asylum, this church’s leaders issue the following statement:

“The Elders and Board of the Church of Christ Wembley Downs acknowledge this church’s history of welcoming and assisting asylum seekers received by Australia for resettlement under the Community Resettlement Scheme. The refugees with which this church and other community organisations have been involved have become full, contributing members of the Australian community. When the Australian government discontinued the scheme, replacing it with its own resettlement regime, including a more severe detention  system, our role began to move to advocacy for individuals and families with whom we had contact. It is with dismay that, over the years, we have seen even harsher measures employed as a deterrent to asylum seekers.  Members…

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Advent Voices: homeless Robbie and Dominique

In the UK, street living Robbie offers stranded Dominique his last three pounds for a fare. Dominique declines, but is so moved by Robbie’s gesture that she reciprocates. These are Advent voices. Read what happened from there!


Advent Voices: the strong voice of Mary

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis, 1712. The white lily in the angel's hand is symbolic of Mary's purity [1] in Marian art.[2]. Public Domain

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis, 1712. The white lily in the angel’s hand is symbolic of Mary’s purity [1] in Marian art.[2]. Public Domain

Today’s text, Luke 1:26-38, is illustrated throughout our world’s art galleries and museums as the “Annunciation.”  The imposing and other-worldly figure of Gabriel is depicted speaking words of life-changing import to a young woman, Mary, who seems simultaneously beatific and non-plussed. Tradition has emphasised her piety and holiness. The narrative in the text highlights her perplexity at being told that she will bear a child of divine import and the manner in which she will conceive. The personal and social impact of Gabriel’s announcement might have been most troubling.

Mary’s final response is, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

These are strong words – more than mere submission. They are alignment with revealed purpose – and thus a true Advent voice!

Advent Voices – #illridewithyou

#illridewithyouThe aftermath of yesterday’s siege in Sydney with this morning’s tragic loss of life occupies the airwaves. Community empathy washes on two shores. Hearts go out to the victims and their families.  They also reach out to apprehensive Muslim communities, who are also shocked and appalled by what took place in the hands of one mentally sick individual acting out under the discourse of their faith. Based on precedent, adherents of Islam brace themselves for community backlash.

The hashtag #illridewithyou has shifted what might have become an ugly undercurrent in reactions to the siege. It originated with Sydneysider Rachel Jacobs who noticed a young woman fearfully removing her hijab while riding public transport. She urged her to put it back on, saying, “I’ll ride with you.”  Shortly after, she described her experience on Twitter, using the now viral hashtag #illridewithyou.

The phenomenal power of social media was almost instantaneous. Even, while the siege continued, something happened to the zeitgeist of fear that loomed over the city and nation. #illridewithyou trended as men and women from all walks of life reassured their Muslim neighbours and even strangers, “We’re all in this together.”

It is as if the whole Australian community has found a rallying point around a simple sound-byte that carries so much punch – a simple set of words that helps the community overcome recent times of political and media manipulated polarisation across a range of public issues. Yes, it is still possible to claim the oft trumped nation’s ideal of unity in diversity against the most horrendous circumstances.

“I’ll ride with you.” Truly today’s Advent voice!

Advent voices – where does YHWH make a home?

A model of Herod's Temple adjacent to the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Public Domain

A model of Herod’s Temple adjacent to the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Public Domain

Nowhere we design – that’s for sure! What church, temple, synagogue or mosque could hope to house the pervasive, restless nature of a presence that is simultaneously transcendent and immanent? David, newly enthroned King of Israel, self-consciously wrestled with the contrast of his cedar palace and the tent that had symbolised  YHWH’s nomadic presence with the people (2 Samuel 7:1-11). Nathan helped him to see that it was in YHWH’s intrinsic nature to choose when and how to be present.  By now David should have grasped that YHWH would always be present to his people without the benefit of a house. David eventually built a temple. We build our chapels and cathedrals.

In this season, we prepare to celebrate how YHWH deigned to be revealed in a person, Jesus of Nazareth. Because of Jesus of Nazareth, we have been able to understand more clearly how to be come temples, homes for the presence of YHWH, ourselves.

Advent Voices – the subversive Magnificat

What a strong, evocative, celebratory song is Mary’s Magnificat!
And it is highly political, even seditious. If an agent of either Caesar or Herod the Great had been eavesdropping on Mary as she visited her cousin Elizabeth, neither of these women would have survived to tell the story.

Mary’s song, however, has become a trans-seasonal reminder, not of how “truth speaks to power,”  but of how truth is claimed and celebrated in the face of the kind of tyrannical force that suppresses and smothers abundant shared life. And so the “proud are scattered in the thoughts of their heads” and the “powerful are brought down from their thrones.”  The “lowly are lifted” and “the hungry are filled with good things.”

This is why this week’s prayer meetings in electoral offices by Christian leaders have been quietly respectful, peaceful and poised. There is no need to strive for truth to be spoken, it only needs to be present.

And the powers and principalities of the land can’t stand it!

Unmasking Humourless Powers


Much has been said in relation to the events of last Wednesday as around 50 Christian protesters were arrested ansd some strip-searched. Ted Witham nails the dynamics of whats going on…

Originally posted on Mind Journeys:

I salute my colleagues who were detained and strip-searched yesterday. I salute their courage, their grace and humour. Especially their humour. At the end of the day it is not they who stand naked and humiliated. It is the system that allows children to be indefinitely locked up in third world conditions.

I am outraged, but not surprised. Jarrad and Lorna, I know, have read Pace e Bene non-violence training; they have read Walter Wink; they have read Martin Luther King Jr. They know to expect the full response of the law if they go down the path of civil disobedience: fines, jail and all the police procedures that may go with them. They were prepared to pay the full price.

And they also know from their training that their opposition to the status quo will make it unstable, and their disobedience will provoke unexpected reactions. For their…

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