When great troubles come upon us, when we are beginning to suspect that we might not be God after all, where do we turn?
How do we live? That, it seems to me is the big question. People in every age have asked it, in as many different ways as there have been cultures. Sometimes, as here, both the question and the answer have been explicit. Sometimes implicit – you have to look below the surface froth of events to have a sense of what is really driving things. But there is no escaping it. – all of human life is driven by this overarching question.
How do we live?
In difficult times, our simplistic answers stop working. What is life all about? What big story am I part of?
What does suffering mean? What sort of universe is it that allows the suffering of a good person like Job? Are we better off just abandoning the whole idea of a good God?
Some Greeks came to the temple wanting to see Jesus – what happened next will amaze you! Or at least make for a challenging text for a sermon…
Do you actually know what John 3:16 means? I was shocked to discover that I didn’t, until a few days ago. Also: what on earth do snakes have to do with it?
The Second Temple was destroyed almost two thousand years ago, but the temptation to think that God has a house, that anything other than Jesus is where we could seek God’s presence, remains as strong as ever.
The story of how Mary became Jesus’ mother is difficult. It’s crammed full of miracles that we find hard to believe in, and angelic figures, who might be even worse, and, to top it all off, it is layered over with hundreds of years of religious art and saccharine Christmas cards and frankly sexist attitudes towards women. The story manages to be both so familiar that we can’t hear it for what it is, and simultaneously even more alien than John the Baptizer in the Judean scrub dressed up like a caveman. And yet, something still resonates. It still matters that Mary said “yes.”
John the Baptizer dressed like a caveman, ate wilderness food, and refused to cooperate with the religious authorities. Church people are well behaved, often well dressed, and rarely feast on locusts? What could the former have to do with the latter?
The parable of the talents is strange and shocking. It takes place in an alien world of masters and slaves and long journeys, where people hide their talents in holes in the ground, and where great rewards and mysterious punishments await. But what if, at the heart of the story, lies the best investment advice ever given?