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.”
The Witness Statement
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?
Why would anyone pay any attention at all to someone who looked like they were engaged in an overly serious Elijah cosplay? What on earth did John think he was doing, and what does it have to say to our world?
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down…” A year ago that text might have seemed a bit remote from our world. But devastating bushfires, fresh revelations about the injustice of our society, and, of course, the terrible plague which is devastating our world, make these words from Isaiah feel astonishingly fresh.
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?
What does a mysterious story about a late night wedding, 24 hour oil dealerships, and dubious ethical behaviour amongst wise bridesmaids have to say to our anxious age?
Is the Christian hope of Resurrection just an “opiate for the masses”? Or a barbaric reminder of earlier, less scientific times? Or is it something to do with trust?
What is church for? In Australia hardly anyone goes, even when it’s livestreamed and there’s not much else to do. Is it important? And if so, why? What does Jesus’ interpretation of the law have to do with it? And what’s with the picture of the suspension bridge?
As the lockdown drags on in Melbourne, gratitude just gets harder. Suffering becomes a kind of blindness as we are turned in on ourselves. But could suffering be an ironic teacher that knocks us out of our limited ways of seeing the world? Could gratitude be a way forward?
The Golden Calf
Moses had been gone, somewhere up on the mountain, for a long time. Too long. What had happened to him? Had he died up there? There were always wild animal sounds out in the darkness. Could a jackal or a lion have eaten him?
It’s a story from a long, long time ago. What possible relevance could the strange tale of a little cow cast from gold have to us today?