Category Archives: Uncategorized

Agency, choice, science.Being sentient.

Dear Creator,

You made us like this. You gave us the capacity to think, to reason, to debate, to examine evidence.

You gave us the deep desire to love, to connect, to communicate, to share ideas and feelings. You instilled in us a potential to build our empathy, to understand complexity and contradiction, to examine standpoints, to listen and to learn.

As far as we know we are the only species who can do this.

As far as we know.

So why…

are we the species who plunder and loot, who exploit and overuse, who use escapism and denial to hide from our responsibility to be that “higher life form” our art and philosophy used to tell us we were?

are we the species who fear our neighbour and lock up CHILDREN to feed our own fear?

has human history consistently been full of war, abuse, terror, greed and squabbling over things that are not ours?

Creator was this inevitable? Did you know we would be like this? Why did you not know? Why did you make us? Have we ever been better?

Can we be better?

Can these dry bones live? Is there a hope that is not just denial? Is there a joy that is not just excess? Is there a love? Any real love? Not desire or neurosis or need or charity but just that pure and redeeming thing…love?

At church today we talked about Dominic asking us to contemplate the good, the beautiful and the true. Help me to find that in my species. Help me to find it in myself.

The good. The beautiful. The true.

Life

Love

Amen

Where is God when our labour is invisible?

In case you need something less “over it” I will drop a link to what I wrote last time it was this gospel story…

Let’s talk about invisible labour. Let’s talk about pink collar jobs. Let’s talk about gaslighting, because it kind of feels like Martha gets gaslighted by Jesus in the gospel of the week and the lectionary does not help by it’s treatment of Sarah. We’ll start with Sarah, since that reading is the first.

So…three men visit Abraham. Because, you know our tradition is incapable of showing even the multiplicity and trinitarian nature of Godde without the masculine gender (rolls eyes). This is how we know that important things are happening in the public sphere

  1. It gets written down (logocentrism)
  2. The participants are men
  3. Women have to support this in ways that are trivialised or outright made invisible (eg preparing food, childcare)

“Let some water be brought” orders Abraham, claiming credit for the work of an ungendered, invisible servant. Class and gender privilege…there really is nothing like it! Abraham is happy to exploit the people of his household to gain blessings for himself (which will trickle-down to them supposedly too).

“Let me bring you a little food” says Abraham. “Me”, first person singular. The three men agree and he runs to Sarah and orders her to start baking.

We tend not to spot that in the reading, partly because we have grown up with a reluctance to really interrogate “holy” things, but also because this is such a common-place story that we forget to be angry or sad about it. Men achieve their self-interested networking by ordering women and lower-status men to do the shit-work for them. Whoever bakes the bread, only the male hands of the ordained priest is allowed to performatively break it.

Guess I am losing my faith again (don’t worry it’s behind the sofa or something, gathering lint).

So Abraham brings out the labour of Sarah’s hands, and finally this three-fold God (or is it just a bunch of men?) speaks.

“Where is your wife?” a liberative moment? A challenge to be reflexive? A call to examine the patriarchal/kyriarchal conscience?

Nah. Tucking my awkward feminist hopes back in where they won’t embarrass me…

The men are there to talk about Sarah not to her. They comment on her reproductive capacity and leave. The lectionary cuts it there so we won’t hear her give a little feminist snigger at their mansplaining (I am sure she knows about her own ovaries better than they do). Sarah laughs, but the patriarchal church is not keen to even give her that much voice. We will move on to see who else can be exploited, trivialised or dismissed…

The psalm extols the virtues of “he who does no wrong to his fellow man”. Bad translation? Maybe…we feminist certainly put in a lot of unpaid and underappreciated time trying to translate it better, dust it off, reclaim it and still love it unconditionally but today I am going to move right along…

The second reading is one of those sections that would make more sense with some context. I could probably labour to try to bring something liberative out of it but it’s not exactly jumping out is it? I probably get more useful theology from a feminist poem or a sunset. This by itself, is not going to keep me in the church.

So now the gospel. It has women in it, few gospel pericopes have that so I sort of feel excited…until I look closer. Do you know what? I will tell you how the gospel would look if it was not so gaslighty about women’s work.

Jesus and his disciples went and stayed at the house of Martha and Mary. Martha and Mary already had a very busy life, but were always happy to see their good friend Jesus and had asked him to take that liberty, nevertheless he was always conscious of the need to be a good guest, especially when bringing in 12 more mouths to feed.

Jesus was lounging around with his mates talking to Mary who was one of the smartest people he knew and always asked the right questions without making him feel dumb. Martha called from the kitchen, “Jesus can you get Mary to give me a hand?”

Jesus realised that Martha was not really even complaining about how hard she was working, she took pride in making the best food and in her wonderfully clean home but she felt like she was being taken for granted and was missing out on time with guests. He walked into the kitchen “what can I give you a hand with?” he asked.

Mary came in too as did a couple of the disciples. This way the meal still got made, but Martha was able to be part of the conversation as well!

This would actually be gospel, this would actually be good news. Instead of what we have here and the way the church has chosen to present it.

This is more than just whinging because I don’t like housework (although I REALLY don’t). This is about the fact that while women are unacknowledgedly and underpaidly (I don’t care autocorrect I will invent new adverbs if I want) doing all the caring and healing and feeding work and not getting fairly represented in the “public sphere” men are making an Icarus out of the human race. You think I am exaggerating? For the sake of macho things like GDP and military might we are all flying too close to the sun and conveniently forgetting that our wings are held together by wax. Already the wax is softened, even dripping and the buggers are refusing to turn back.

We will all die as a species if men are allowed to keep leading unchallenged and if only women who emulate them are allowed into the conversational spaces!

Please note, I am not claiming that all men are bad or that all women are innocent. This is far from being truth. But patriarchal ways of being and how casually we accept them are definitely part of the problem! If faith is at the centre of our lives, then how we perform faith will affect how we live. Many of my feminist friends are atheist (not all) but for me that is not the answer because I know a lot of CEOs and world-leaders are either atheists or have a “lip-service” faith that does not touch their eyes or their deeds.

We need more from church than the routine dismissing of women and everything women’s lives are burdened with, than the abuse and silencing of children, than ignoring the most underprivileged or lukewarm “thoughts and prayers” at best. We need to confront the climate catastrophe. Sarah, Martha and all the other silenced women are capable of so much. When will we actually take their concerns and their work more seriously. The “better part” is not sitting at the feet of a man, when there are children (or disciples) to be fed.

We know from experience that being kind and patient and just laughing quietly behind the lectionary won’t transform the church or politics. It might be time to be louder, less conventient, less compliant and call out patriarchy...even when inconveniently God seems complicit in it (but who got to present Godde to us?).

 

 

 

“Prayer” of the once faithful

I wrote this almost a decade ago. I didn’t post it anywhere. It’s not properly speaking a “prayer” since it addresses and idol once held up as God and not Godde, Godself. Perhaps the idol is the church or perhaps it is the version of God/de I was given by the church. Anyway the thing I am addressing here is no Godde of mine.

When I was a child, I thought like a child

and you were always right,

while my role was to follow,

to punish myself with secret insults, self-harm, microaggressions.

I punished myself

for seeing your flaws.

 

Like a child I was powerless

and accepted that the fault was always mine

ever since the sin of Eve

the first (bar Lilith) to get above herself.

 

When I was a child I would have

jumped off even more cliffs than were on offer

to prove my faithfulness,

to deserve your protection,

and love.

 

When I was a child

so before I knew your history

or how you have always treated

little ones.

Listen up: deep down you know it’s the Truth

Ok so three years ago I used a different lectionary. I think this was before I settled into my routine. But if you are curious (the gospel was the same) my post is here.

But I have found this week’s readings for 2019 here.

“If only you would heed the voice of God” says Moses. But there are so many voices clamouring, all claiming to speak for the Truth. I can’t always trust people who are more worried about “freedom of religion” meaning their right to exclude and slander than they are genuinely seeking the liberation (always more than market freedom) of the kindom of Godde). But they would claim to speak for God and to be defending Christian values.

They would say my attempts at preaching and at prophecy are ungodly.

So how do we choose? How do we know the voice of Godde?

We know that hearts and souls are at play here, we are returning with our heart and soul, body and intellect all of us, completely returning to the one truth. It is not some distant pie-in-the-sky to be worshipped. It is not coming from across the sea to colonise us. It is written into the integrity of who we are- it is our heritage, our makeup, our birthright whatever country or nation we came from, whatever sexual orientation we were created to be…yes whatever faith we have (or have not).

The irony of me preaching such a thing is if you don’t share my broadly Christian spirituality then you are probably not here, but the consolation for me is that preaching does not need to convert people, it simply needs to raise consciousness. I cannot put Godde into people, but I can try to get a spark from Godde already there. In the way we touch the lives of each other, the Godde in us can shine to the Godde (the same Godde, don’t worry) also in them. Even if they prefer to spell this phenomenon “God”.

The psalm has a “wanting to be rescued” fixation which I can really relate to. I spent most of my young years praying pretty much exactly that. I don’t know how Godde feels hearing that from us day after day after day after day. Should we maybe have more courage to make some positive changes ourselves? I don’t know. I guess the take-home message here is Godde will not abandon us even when we are completely pathetic (the plight of the refugees terrifies me though. How can I believe that Godde doesn’t abandon people when tiny Tharunicaa and her big sister and parents are STILL IN DETENTION and not even allowed to have the cake their Aussie neighbours baked for the little girl’s birthday) To be clear I want to feel that Godde will always be with me and watch over me. But for goodness sake’s Godde look at those little girls!!!! I know that it is humans not Godde who are torturing them, but it scares me to think that Godde can’t or won’t act against that. I suppose it was always thus, but my consciousness has increased.

The second reading tells us about Christ being really special. This pericope is part of a larger reading and frankly I think is pretty irrelevant without it’s context (within its context it makes sense). This is where I sometimes quarrel with the lectionary. What are we supposed to take home from that reading? Jesus is very mighty. Praise-praise. I mean I know some churches pretty much preach nothing else, but let’s be grownups. It’s worth reading the whole chapter if you want to actually get anything out of this reading and then you will see that chapter is just preamble setting up that Paul (or whoever wrote this) has authority and knows all the right things. And then you might need to read all of Colossians which is great, but for now I am off to the gospel!

Coming back to our theme of identifying the voice of Godde in our life, Jesus is very quick to connect the love of Godde to the love of neighbour! That’s pretty close. Bear in mind someone here is asking Jesus what the most important take-home message might be and Jesus COULD HAVE SAID- don’t be gay because that’s horrendous or he COULD HAVE SAID – don’t be an atheist, don’t have an abortion, don’t wear a short dress, blah, blah, blah a million rules like some churches try to tell us. He could have said “obey the bishop” pr “go to church every sunday” or “adam and eve not adam and steve” or “remember to put ashes on your head once a year”.

But what he DID say was….

well…

actually…

that’s the interesting thing. Because Jesus doesn’t answer, he turns back the question on the questioner. I imagine him winking, “you got this”.

Jesus is not going to get into controversies as if he made something up! So the guy talks about loving Godde and loving neighbour and Jesus says “yep that’s it”.

And that is it.

No addendum about “unless it’s a gay or Muslim neighbour”

That might be news to some Christians I think…

So then Jesus actually tells a story to make it more clear. Like “imagine the neighbour is someone you completely disrespect and want to avoid. Imagine the worst person in the world” I am talking a Crows supporter if you are Port supporter. I am talking someone who puts pineapple on pizza. I guess (if I am honest) I am talking a fan of Andrew Bolt.

Godde asks us to love that person.

Which is actually pretty hard isn’t it? I mean it would be easier if Jesus just said “don’t eat meat on Fridays” or “remember to genuflect when you go into a church” or “give a tithe to the rich minister” or something EASY like that. Something with rules. Something where we can identify people we want to keep out (single mothers and drug addicts, prostitutes…except Jesus had an unfortunate tendency to hang out with them and share food). This is looking pretty unavoidable. He really means it.

We are called to overcome our dislike for people and just bloody well help them!

We can help the refugee from war or from climate crisis. We can accept the person fleeing from domestic violence. We can care about the person suffering from mental illness. There is no end to these damn neighbours. Always with the neighbours. Next thing you are going to tell us even non-human things might be our neightbours!

Might they?

Jesus, the good teacher does not give the answers, he asks provocative questions. He asks the scholar and you and me what we saw in the story who was the neighbour. Well it’s obvious “the one showing him mercy”

“Go” says Jesus “Do the same thing”

That would seem to me to be the truth Moses claimed was already in our hearts. That would be the voice of Godde.

If only we would heed that voice

 

 

Lighting a fire

Well it’s happened. Recent events have taken their toll. the problem is that as usual I am behind myself, so people for the last couple of weeks have telling me I should be depressed, destroyed, etc and I have been quite strong in answering that on the contrary I am energised…angry, sad, scared but full of energy.

But today I am tired, I have been struggling for the last three days, each days finding excuses why it is “just hard today” and being very very unproductive but today I will call it. I am a Christian, I believe in hope at all costs, I believe in resurrections but I am sometimes tired and demoralised (the cold getting deep into my bones does not help).

I want to gather with people for mutual support, instead what ends up happening is people look to me for leadership and inspiration (or is it only that I imagine they do) and I must be a hope giver not someone who needs. I am sometimes tired and demoralised, I never asked to be a leader (save when I was very, very young) and when I ask people to see me as stupid, disengaged, lazy, etc to feel sorry for me, to carry me they tell me not to be silly they don’t see me that way at all. And then I try to shoulder the burden wondering how on earth they do it. HOW?

So then I remember that it has been too long since I danced/sparred with the lectionary apart from my last-minute attempt last week.  It’s Pentecost and I “ought” to be inspired (well perhaps I will be in two days time). At the moment I am tired and broken and cynical and irrational and wondering how to hold it all together which is certainly a good way to begin Pentecost. So instead of a sermon I will give you a tapestry, or maybe a patchwork of thoughs, with bits of the readings as well.

” they were all in one place together. ” (Acts 2)

Hincho mi corazón para que entre
como cascada ardiente el Universon.
El Nuevo día llega y su llegada
me deja sin aliento.
Canto como la gruta que es colmada
canto mi día Nuevo.

Gabriela Mistral

  “I open out my heart so the Universe
can enter like a cataract of fire.
The new day comes; its coming
takes my breath away.
I sing, a hollow filled to overflowing,

I sing my break of day.” (translation by Ursula K Le Guin.)

“I have told you this while I am with you.
… the Holy Spirit …
will teach you everything” (John)

Teach

teach you

teach you everything

“Education is not filling a bucket, it is lighting a fire” (various attributions).

We connect with each other. We sit together in our need for togetherness. We open our broken hearts. We forget to hide from the darkness we fear will devour us. We can smell its rancid breath, the future burning of the forests, the melting of the icecaps, the hunger of our own children.

Someone eleison.

A frightening world without the child’s notion of a divine ATM that will spew out graces in exchange for flattery and pleading. Lord, Lord, Lord, anyone have mercy we want all the answers, we want the burden of solving our own problems to be taken away.

My enemies all encompassed me (was that a psalm when I was a child?)

I could barely crush a fly in my current state.

What is this Universe that is coming? What is this new day? Do we want it? I barely had time to get my head around the old day.

Life-ful Spirit eleison. Something. Be a reason. Give me hope. Hold my hand I am so scared. I don’t like to suffer but I weep more for my children. Eleison, eleison. Are you listening? Do you know what I am talking about? All the trivial things- what will I eat today, who will love me, dare I check my email, who was I meant to respond to, are the bins out, will the cats fight if I leave them together? Eleison. Christe the ultimate resiliant one eleison. But you gave up the ghost didn’t you. Is despair the road to hope?

If I knew what to do I would do it.

 

 

“before she became fire, she was water,

quenching the thirst of every dying creature.

She gave and she gave

until she turned from sea to desert.

But instead of dying from the heat,

the sadness, the heartache,

she took all of her pain

and from her own ashes became fire” (Nikita Gill)

 

Well…it’s hardly comforting is it?

Gaia eleison

pray burning is only a metaphor.

Superheroes must leave, but love is reciprocal.

It’s time for me to get over my addiction to superheroes. Oh I don’t mean the Marvel Universe, although many of my friends enjoy that, I need more feminist storylines than I can find there. I mean people, the very first example I can think of is my Mum.
My mum used to do all these amazing things, she made things happen, she dealt with every crisis, she knew too much and she never seemed to rest. Being a child meant that Christmas was a sort of magic that happened. In 1996 I became a mum and to my shock there were no super-powers conferred on me with the position, but now I had to be the person who made things happen and unravelled all problems and worked so hard (and largely invisibly) to make the Christmas magic.
There were other heroes too…there were teachers and leaders. All sorts of people over the years for me to admire. In activist groups there was always someone who seemed larger than life and it was my privilege to try to become involved enough so they would notice me, so I would be part of the team. But of course the heroes served another purpose also. Heroes meant I didn’t have to be fully committed I could come and go on the periphery of the action, I could “contribute” but someone else would take the responsibility for what we achieved. Heroes were greater than me, more sparkling so they could do all the work. I would follow when I could and expect tolerance for my human limitations and lack of consistency.
This view of the world has always made it hard for me to celebrate Ascension, which I tend to experience as abandonment by one of my necessary heroes. I have a fear of abandonment which does not help me feel joyful.
Wouldn’t life be easier if Jesus had just stayed around indefinitely to answer questions and perform miracles and argue with out enemies saying “hey look I have been here for centuries, even death couldn’t stop me” and outranking them? In this sort of wishful thinking of course, he would have come to Australia and be part of my communities and advocate for me (possibly a questionable element in the privileged Christianity of the minority world).
Jesus did not decide to work in this way. He lived with us, spoke with us, walked with us, suffered with us and had enough commitment even to die. He came back to offer hope and to show that we should never give up…and then he showed enough trust in us to leave.
Yes trust. As the original second reading (which I used as the responsorial psalm) says, God’s power strengthens our hidden self and brings out of us a deep and integral desire for God, for real meaning. There is hope in what we are called to do, but we are called rather than led or enabled. God asks us to make our relationship more mature than in the beginning, the idea here is emotional labour.
Where a relationship is healthy and respectful BOTH people are taking responsibility for the emotional labour and a measure of responsibility each for themselves. So we are not called to a toxic dependency on God, to be crying out to be saved but to watch and listen and come to love and learn and live what God is. God is Godself in relationship with us, in us and calling us through the sacraments to touch and be more than followers. Jesus was not a figurehead, not a superhero but a fellow-traveller, a teacher who becomes a friend. We are supposed to become what Jesus has shown us.
The angels tell us not to stand and stare at the sky, not to look after Jesus as if we had been abandoned. Instead we are to find God here and now, in our bread, in our community and in our lives. So I invite you now to sit and think of your own life and the encounter you have found within it this week. How has God been deeply embedded, instead of leaving this week? If you are not abandoned, what is it you can do to take responsibility and move toward relationship with Christ? What is our call and how are we companioned in fulfilling it? You may also wish to share with people sitting near you.

Stations of the Cross IV

This is my fourth year of doing stations of the cross. Two per year. If you want to look back you can find 1 and 7 here, 2 and 8 here, 3 and 10 here.

Station 4- Jesus meets his mother

Imagine being the mother of Jesus. Imagine being any mother. Imagine spending years holding your baby close, talking with your growing child, doing everything you can to give them opportunities and instil some wisdom. But still they do things we would not have chosen and have courage we would not have for them.

Any child has some sort of devil/cross to carry on their back as they get older.  Any child is condemned and rejected by others at some point. Any child falls and wonders whether they will go on.

We are not giving our young people hope, that is the trouble not only today but going back at least to my generation and maybe further. My parents loved me but they gave me cynicism and sarcasm and a refusal to listen to my concerns that the planet was dying. We still ridicule the young. We tell them nothing is more important than having a job, and then we show them that there are no jobs. We tell them that this is the country of the “fair go” and show them refugees (mothers and their children, hollow eyed men whose mothers loved and nurtured them like Christ) we show them these people locked up, with the key all but thrown away. We tell them (our beloved young) that the world is so bad because of their addictions (which we have fostered) to iphones and smashed avocados. We are very quiet about our own addictions (to coal-powered economies, to sanctimonious inequality).

The face of Mary looks at her son. She does not ask “where did he go wrong?”. She does not blame herself for letting him grow up brave and wise and question the system. He would be half the man he is if he were otherwise. Wise Mary knows that Jesus is suffering because the system is unjust. Like the women on welfare who cannot feed their children or get home to them in time she weeps.

Jesus,

Your mother sees you and I see you too. Your mother is a face in the crowd, but one that does not mock or judge you, one that knows this does not “serve you right”. It can be hard to look on her, on the face of the one who understands terrible suffering and wants to relieve it. It can be hard  not to cling and beg and depend but you grew up.

Jesus, I am afraid for my sons. I am afraid for the children of the world, I am afraid for me. I am afraid to show my truth, to show that I am oppressed, to be one with those who carry stigma- the mentally ill, the unemployed, the ones who get blamed. Give me the courage of Mary who never ran even from this. Give me the love which kept walking with a broken heart.

Some situations are completely without hope, and yet we must be the face of love. Always and everywhere unflinching. Love stares suffering and death in the face and remains love.

Make my love courageous.

Amen

Station 11- Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Just when the indignity and exhaustion has been so relentless that you cannot bear it they make it worse. Nails splitting skin and sinew. Blood, pain, jeering, hung high above the crowd which understands the opposite of your message. I’ve had a small taste of being hated so much and for the wrong reasons, but I’ve only had my picture defaced in a way that my indignant son said was symbolic of domestic violence, but was powerless to really frighten me. But real people are beaten, made to bleed and bruise, gas-lighted, told they are worthless, spat upon.

“Why didn’t she leave?”  we ask of the woman who puts up with it year by year, akin to the thief asking why Jesus didn’t waltz down from his cross and prove he was more than a man, prove he was God. We don’t understand suffering, we do not wish to identify with victim-hood we see no strength in broken endurance, but Jesus sees. Jesus calls his sisters out of domestic violence, yes but he sees also the invisible nails that keep them there.

Jesus calls the child in the school-yard to speak out and end their victimhood at the hands of a bully, but Jesus sees the social stigma that stops the child telling. Jesus stands with the ousted whistle-blower (even when he is an imperfect human being). Jesus stands with the impossible child. Jesus stands with the undiagnosed and the misunderstood and the wrongly medicated. Jesus stands with the victims of the church’s myriad abuses and turns an eye of anger and shame against the perpetrators, however powerful.

Jesus stands with all victims everywhere, not to sanctify and reify victimhood but in solidarity. Jesus would end the pain and the shame if he could (let us be clear about that and not too cosy about his “heroic” victimhood). Jesus suffers terribly and is retraumatised when we suffer or when we cause suffering.

What do I say to you O Jesus,

As you are nailed to the cross. Is it the cross of my prejudice? Is it the cross of my impotence to create change? Is it the cross of my inability to hope? Is it a cross not of my own making, but one I would rather not confront?

So easy to look away and walk past, because what after all is the polite way to speak to someone who is suffering and dying to keep me in my first world (minority world) lifestyle? Are you languishing in a factory in China owned by someone in my country? Are you a calf brought up in the dark and filth only to be slaughtered? Are you a fish in the Murray river? How do I confront you when to see you crucified is to confront my own privilege, which I prefer to keep invisible?

How dare you hang there on the cross! How dare you spoil our public holiday with your suffering! How politically correct of you to demand some recognition.

But dearest Jesus, you know I am not really like that. I see in your face my own humanity. I will do better. I will not walk past injustice. I will become conscious even though it is like thorns digging into me. I will speak out though I am afraid. I will practice holy solidarity with anyone who is oppressed.

One of my students said to me that we need to find the place of no more crosses, the place where no one is crucified. She thought she was being rude to my religion but my heart leapt at the idea and I agreed with her. Show us that your followers ought never be the ones who drive the nails in or even stand idly by.

Let us build a world of hope, a world without crucifixion.

Solidarity brother Jesus

Amen.

Mandated this Thursday

Bread in a drought. We are overusing the earth and stealing from the rivers. We are feeding up animals just to slaughter them in horrible conditions. We are ripping out every other plant to grow more vines so we can drown our middle-class scruples and sorrows in wine (reduced when you buy by the dozen).

We don’t want to wash anyone’s feet, we Christians, unless we have chosen them for their likeness to us. We don’t want Muslims and we don’t want trans disciples, we don’t want inconvenient voices calling out for a stop to rape and toxic masculinity, we don’t want vegans or cyclists, we don’t want unionists. We want a small, narrow, white and bland kingdom of a three-word-slogan God who will medicate us back to sleep.

Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. It’s all too hard. God save us. This is a test of faith and we cry when a great cathedral burns (and well we might). But the birthing trees are bulldozed on out and we don’t care. Brown children are trapped in factories with no water but overpriced, plastic packages sold back to them despite their tiny wage. Monkeys in metal collars are forced to harvest coconuts for smug minority world festival goers. Mea culpa, I love a festival and coconut water too.

We care more for who gets into Eurovision than who gets into parliament or what their policies will mean. We want gross domestic product…and the word “gross” really is apt! Wellbeing be damned we want measurable outputs to prove we are winning.

But then it is lent and we are called to become aware of the wilderness we are wandering in, the barren emptiness of lives focused on having not being, focused on distractions not deeds, on status not right relationship. It’s been lent and yet we can so easily sit in out “sty of contentment” as Eliot put it, or in some close approximation. And now it is the eve of Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” because there is a mandate here (the words are related) but the mandate is not just to be the king washing the feet of the properly submissive beggar but to wash the feet we would rather not touch.

I grew up with a liturgical foot-washing, a bishop with many attendants serving him pouring some water over feet of 12 respectable men in suits. As an adult I found more inclusive places, the washers and the washed were varied but still it was the respected and the respectable performing ritual. Noone’s foot was actually very dirty and the symbol was mildly uncomfortable rather than wildly destabilising.

But now our refusal to be destabilised may cost us our lives. We are facing climate change, and the main argument is still over who to hate, who to blame, who to exclude. My former partner told me that I have learned nothing through the years and I still don’t love myself and I felt angry and started to argue. “No but really” he said “I want you to hear me”.

It’s Maundy Thursday and I am still not hearing people. I am still busy trying to be the Martha at the table of grace and afraid to be the Mary. I want to be “good” and “kind” and “wise” and “worthy” so someone will love me, to take away from me the burden of having to love myself. I want to make a bargain with God, shake hands on a deal where I will not have to confront things anymore. I am like my corflute after all, flat and polished and smiling on demand.

There is some sort of sacrament here, and I need it and I hunger for it but I don’t know how to receive it. How can I be so dark and disillusioned on this weekend in particular? If there is meaning and I have strived for it then why don’t I feel it? Why does the love of my friends, and especially of my children reduce me to tears? If I am loved after all, cannot that be a sign?

Many years ago, when I was pregnant with my third child I had lunch with a friend of mine, an ordained minister. He spoke to me about the desire to over-eat, that he prays “only you can fill me God” before every meal.

I sit here full of chips and migraine, politics and study, the housework I should have done and the sleep I wish I could get. I sit here full of performative faith: “Don’t you dare leave me God”. I sit here with leftover suicidal ideation I have learned to control but not really to forgive or heal. I am full of fear and sadness and resentment. I know that I will more than likely be a failure and if I succeed that I will be attacked. I know myself to be lazy and a coward. I worry that I might sell my beloved for 30 pieces of silvered silence away from the struggle.

I don’t know how to be empty so that I can be filled by Godde

I see people’s faces turned toward me, seeing something more heroic and strong than I feel myself to be and I know that I have made idols of others to avoid having to be responsible. I feel Godde’s presence with me, tolerant, but it is not Godde whom I have harmed. Those people I admired, did they feel the weight of my worship? How could I expect them to be so much more than I was ever prepared to be? When I have thought leaders to be pompous and arrogant, even narcissistic was it their shield against my need for them to be gods?

Who was Jesus at the last supper? Did it hurt to be bread and wine? How much did he consent to and how much was he created by his followers?

It sounds like blasphemy to say that Jesus was “only human” and yet if he wasn’t then what is this for us? We do not have another millennium to wait to be saved from our need to create church as institution and ritual as hiding. Jesus did not say “cringe and cry to me”. He did not say “avoid anyone different”. He did not say “I will save you from yourself”. Jesus said “I am the least of your siblings”. He said “take up your cross and follow me”. He said “you can’t be part of this unless I wash your feet.”

So much of the world is crying for the bread they don’t have and for the wine that is never shared with them. Factory and field workers collapse too exhausted to hope. Refugees share inadequate meals in uncomfortable buildings behind wire. I have pedicured my feet ready to seem clean when I am washed. I turn up for religion, but hide from the Holy Spirit.

Like an anorexic I turn away from the Bread of Heaven.

I am addicted to the hunger.

From the womb out to the universe: love

The lectionary this week is my friend, these readings are perfect for encouraging an activist and someone who would do good in the world, without allowing for smugness or self-righteousness. Given the church’s capacity for “I am right and you are damned” thinking, I will start with what these readings do NOT tell me. They do not tell me that I am right and everyone else is wrong or inferior. They do not tell me to go about judging individual “sin” and nitpicking others. They do not answer all questions, give us a blueprint for living or make it easier. They do reassure us, call to us, tell us our work is meaningful and needed and remind us to focus on WHAT MATTERS. I will get to what matters but spoiler alert, the second reading pretty much spells it out.

There is a popular quote that is often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela, but I will start with that:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson)

Williamson is brilliant, because she has made so many people sit up and take notice of this truth, but in a sense she is (intentionally or not) paraphrasing today’s first reading. The reading says the same thing, but puts it in a context of faith as relationship with God. God knows us full well. God knew us before we were born and is intimately familiar with both our capacity and our limitations. God loves and calls out of us the light that we are. God loves, soothes and forgives our brokenness and too tiredness.

God is asking us to have the courage to speak out against oppression- the oppressions of ourselves or others. God is asking us to take an ideological stand for the kindom of Heaven not for the economy of only money while children suffer and human beings work too hard for too little. Kin-dom, sometimes people tell me I spell that wrong, but I am making a choice to critique putting a human oppressive structure like “kingship” on our God of subversive love who preferences the poor. Charity then is reframed not as generosity given to the lesser “other” but as justice, giving people back what is rightfully theirs. We are KIN, we are family to God and therefore to each other. Everything we have was first of all God’s and as God has shared it with human-kind it is equally for all, not for one of us more than another.

Interesting also that as well as Kings and Princes (secular oppressive powers) we are also told we will have to stand against priests and people. I don’t see this reading asking us to unquestioningly follow or be inappropriately loyal to the clergy. We must demand from them what we demand from anyone in power- integrity, wisdom, humility and the dignity of those they claim to lead. Those below us are our kin and those above us are also our kin. Noone deserves less than me. Noone “deserves” more than me. We must give and demand full respect. There is no excuse for clergy abusing people or lording it over them.

The psalm is a call to God, because if we take out vocation to stand against injustice and oppression seriously then we have a daunting task before us. There will be a time when we feel unequal to the task. The psalm begs for God’s support and strength and hints that these are available to us. What if as well as calling on God we call on each other for solidarity and look for and support those in whom God’s call shines strongly? The womb is mentioned again, I notice this week’s readings really stressing our origin in a mother’s womb and God’s midwifely care for us to be born. Our material lives, our bodily realities (with messy female bodies involved in the creation of life) is known and blessed and companioned by God. I am menstruating as I write which makes my relationship with my own body difficult. But I came messily from my mother and my children came messily from me. The Word of God is in each of us and the power to declare God’s justice and salvation. These days I am not birthing children but words. It is also a difficult and messy process. God knows me before I speak and before my words are articulate. God is in the mentors that try to help me fix my words (whether or not they are “believers”).

If God companions us then God is also the companioning and mentorship that we bring to each other. Praise God in the messiness of human love and wisdom. Praise for the sacrament of community!

The second reading seems to agree with me. No amount of eloquence, dedication to a cause or force of charisma is worth anything if I lose the focus that God has set for all my meaningful labours. The focus is LOVE. Justice is for LOVE. Hope is for LOVE. Human relationships are for LOVE. Education of children is for LOVE. Politics ought to be for LOVE. Protecting the environment is work of LOVE. Love to the stranger and the refugee. Love to the queer kid and the dysmorphic teen. Love to the socially awkward, the disabled, the unemployed or the grieving. Love to the articulate, the successful, the polished too. Love to the prickly, love even to the hollow and love always back to myself. I am here to know my belovedness not guilt at what I have not (yet) achieved. I am beautiful for being created so, not as an attainment in a dazzling career of some sort. But I also don’t have to devalue my achievements, just refocus through them on love. All worthwhile aims are love and all that makes us fully actualised is love.

When it is hard to find a path then we must love more. When we are doing well then we must consciously refocus on love.

Love is that perfect and resilient thing that is expounded in this reading but please note that love is NOT a quiet doormat. Patient and kind yes but also ready to advocate for the beloved (and all are God’s beloved). All other things will ultimately fail us and leave us feeling empty but love will always triumph. Love will always call us back to the centre of being. Love is the safest place to invest our efforts and our identity and reap joy. When grief is real and joy is difficult, nevertheless the meaning of the universe lies within love. Love is unavoidable if our lives are to be meaningful and our personhood complete.

In the gospel, I “only a single mum”, “only a student”, only a this or only a that smile at Jesus being “only the son of a carpenter”. This past week I heard someone who I experience as a hero, a courageous and intelligent leader and thinker describe herself as “a girl from….” (a country town). Behind all the great prophets and teachers there is a very ordinary reality (like wombs again) of growing up somewhere with some ordinary folk and gaining extraordinariness through the call of God/love, through the fact that within every single one of us is the seed of liberation for ourselves and each other (Williamson again). I find Jesus’ words about some people being chosen and some not puzzling. I cannot believe that God plays favourites and this has not been my experience either.

It is the “widow” or the “leper” or the “carpenter’s son” that we must look to, to be fed and taught and called. It is the ordinary in us that gives rise to our vocation to work not only FOR God but WITH God in our world and beyond. And beyond, I say, not giving ourselves permission to neglect the realities of climate change and inequality here on earth, but hoping always radically hoping for greater meanings than we can yet know.

“So faith, hope and love remain, these three. But the greatest is love”. Our faith and our being hold such a truth at the heart because elsewhere we are reminded that “God is love”. Let us answer that call, let us be defined by always greater commitment to love.

Knowing

Someone asked me (well not just me, a group of us) to articulate how/why we believe in God. I am tired and it is a hard thing to articulate, but I will set down here what I said and try to start to polish it to understand it better. I think it was Elizabeth Adams St Pierre that said she only knew what she was going to say AFTER she wrote it. It’s a bit like that for me and this is my process for trying to understand my inner truth.

I think I will classify this as one of my “creeds”

I think my belief in Jesus is just me needing a framework for my belief in God

that is the framework I grew up with,

sort of the God-language that I am fluent(ish) in.

 

There is not rational reason to believe in God

I feel a presence

that is what a relationship is, a presence I can feel and trust

I need values and meaning to be fully alive

and sometimes struggle to know what they are

or define them.

 

People define them wrong, rules break down,

systems oppress someone

I need more

a presence I can trust

that will travel the beyond-ways with me

but wiser

and love and trust me into

my better self.

 

God is “other” to me

so that I might not be God to myself

which would be narcissism

I find myself

in bouncing off an “other”

sometimes people are the “other” but also God

to remind me that the “other” is as great and greater than me

and reaching for me in love

to wrap me

my “self” is not all, is not the reason

but even my “Self” is also wrapped in the great love.

 

I know God.

I mean I know love.

I am loved.

I know the sight of the tawny eyes that make me feel tender

and I say “I am in love”

and I can ask all the texts in the world to explain this thing to me

can deconstruct and disbelieve

but I see the face, the smile

and I am in (human) love.

 

And that is what knowing boils down to.

 

I know the taste of mango.

I know the sweet and the sometimes too sour

and the inconvenience of skin and seed

and the pleasure/irritation of dripping

and the juice in a thirsty mouth

and the wrong season so I have apple instead.

There is reason, there is science

but that is not really how I know the curve and the scent

that is mango.

 

I see a man and I know he is the baby

that I used to watch breathing in joy and fear

that I used to hold close and allow to move away

that began words and thought I was everything,

then nothing,

then a person, an “other”.

I know the baby still in the man

but the baby is long gone

and I love the man the same and not the same.

The breath that meant love.

 

My cat purrs and I know her and she knows me.

My hand on her velvety fur brings the purr

and she is old

and she knows I am far from perfect

but also trusts that I will feed her,

she rarely reminds me.

I know she purrs not for any reason

but because we are together.

 

I know the velvety rose petal.

I know its caress and I know its fragrance.

Roses have thousands of petals and they curl and dry up and disappear

and I have to try to remember

to dead-head them.

If I pick a rose

and put in in a vase in my warm house

it will last a day perhaps

not long.

But the petal is fresh if I rub it, unless I crush it,

the rose smells like something I can’t prove.

And why does the scent of a rose

call to mind those eyes again?

Something like faith, making connections

that reason cannot sustain.

 

I would hope everyone feels some such thing.

 

The bible for me is not fact,

or rules for living,

or instructions or warnings.

It is a photo-album of

communities of God within my faith-family.

They got some stuff right and some stuff wrong.

And some of it I just plain wasn’t there and I don’t understand.

 

And then God comes along like a burst of music

through my head and echoing in my memory,

reverbating in my body, in my bones

live music

making me dance and haunting me forever after.

 

Sometimes I get the moves or the rhythm wrong

or I strain to hear and miss my cue.

I hope the music is still moving me even then.

I hope but I can’t prove it.

 

Somewhere in my hope, my good intention

I must have been touched by God

I must be right

(not about the facts or the mechanics or to tear others down)

but right to live and move and have my being

coming to know GODDE.