Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bent out of Shape

Image from the website of Saint Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, Boone, NC
A reflection on Luke 13:10-17 and Psalm 71:1-6
Alison Sampson, Sanctuary, 21 August 2016

When I was in the seventh grade, we all did drama at school. One day, each of us had to walk like somebody else. One girl walked slowly across the room. Her hands were folded in front of her. Her back was curved over, her shoulders were hunched, she stared at the ground as she walked. It was the saddest thing I’d ever seen. I said something to the kids next to me about how awful it was, and wondered aloud who walked like that. The kids laughed. “Are you joking?” they said, “Don’t you know? Anyone can see that it’s you.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Duke of Division, or Prince of Peace?

Icon from Prince of Peace Abbey, Oceanside, CA.
Love the icon, but I'm wondering about the eagle. Is it Uncle Sam?
A reflection on Luke 12:49-56
Alison Sampson, Sanctuary, 14 August 2016

Isn’t it great to be here? Isn’t it a relief to be part of a new congregation with a bunch of people and a pastor who ‘get’ us? Isn’t it wonderful to be at a church that is not like the others? Here, women can claim their authority, and preach. Here, children can move around throughout the service. Here, the furniture is scuffed and wonky and nobody needs to worry about sticky fingers and sand on the floor. Here, we can ask difficult questions and not be censured. Here, people seek to integrate their lives and their faith, and we don’t have too many empty words. We’ve been listening to Jesus, we understand that his ways centre around hospitality, care for the vulnerable and peacemaking, and we’re all on board. Isn’t it great?

But into this lovely peaceful place erupt the words of Jesus: “I did not come to bring peace, but division. From now on, households will be divided, and the people you love will turn against you.” What on earth is Jesus trying to say to us here? Isn’t he supposed to be the Prince of Peace?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Follow your heart?

A reflection on Luke 12:32-40 and Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Alison Sampson, Sanctuary, 7 August 2016

So on Wednesday I was listening to my daughter doing her school reader, a stimulating text called All Fairies Can Fly. In it, a wise old frog tells the sad fairy a widely-held truth. “You know what is right for you,” he says, “just listen to within.” And that, of course, fixed everything.

Follow your heart! Follow your dreams! You know what is right for you! Listen to yourself!

All of us hear these messages every day of the week, in advertising, on Facebook, on tea towels, at school, at work, even, at times, from the pulpit. We live in a society which places enormous trust in the impulses of our hearts. And so we believe that, if we only do what our hearts tell us, if we just tune in to that inner voice, we will find our treasure: satisfaction, well-being, meaning, vocation, whatever. And when we don’t find treasure, when we find ourselves feeling empty and restless and longing for something more, we think it’s because we haven’t listened well enough to our hearts, and we try even harder to tune into our own selves.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Possessions, Possession, and the Kingdom of God

Marie Kondo in joy pose. Picture from the New York Times.
A reflection on Luke 12:13-21
Alison Sampson, Sanctuary, 31 July 2016

We just all heard a great story from Jesus, in which a rich man hoards a heap of stuff and congratulates himself on it. But did you hear what God said to the rich man? “You nincompoop! On this night all your things are possessing your soul! You don’t own them; they own you. And all this stuff you have piled up, whose is it, anyway?”

Someone like me needs to hear these words again and again, because I love stuff. I love old plates and pretty bowls and my grandmother’s piano. I love vintage chairs and crochet rugs; and I like to own lots of them. And so tonight’s words made me wonder, am I an idiot, too?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wicked Women Welcome

Mary Anoints the Feet of Jesus, by Frank Wesley
A sermon by Alison Sampson on Luke 7:36-8:3
South Yarra Community Baptist Church, 12 June 2016

My last sermon at the South Yarra Community Baptist Church! If you prefer to listen to it, click here and follow the link.

Many years ago, both my husband and I had dealings with a particular Christian group at university. Back in the mid-eighties, when my husband was first involved, it was a group whose members sat around at lunchtime talking about faith, asking difficult questions, and wrestling with difficult answers. But it soon changed, and by the time I had arrived, eight years later, it was led by staff workers who were deeply concerned with right doctrine. In my first year of university, I was living at college and thinking a lot about faith. But as someone who asked lots of difficult questions and didn’t accept most answers, I quickly became a target. I found myself in conversations I never wanted to have, in which the acceptability of women in leadership, the doctrine of evolution, questions of sexual identity, and many other issues were put under the microscope, and my position was always shown to be wrong.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Love despite fear, fear despite love

What sort of crazy person would buy this building?
I have staggered to the end of another semester, a semester in which I overcommitted to study, kept working, kept raising children, kept combing out nits and cooking meals and sweeping floors; and somewhere in the midst of everything, a whole new surprising project took root. Now I am emerging from the fog of study and the chaos of family life and the demands of work to discover that I am moving to a regional city in a few weeks’ time to start a new church. I should be thrilled and excited—and there are many times when I am—but I am also just as likely to feel overwhelmed. I think often of Leunig’s observation that there are only two emotions, love and fear, for the new project certainly arose out of love, and yet it fills me with fear.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

How long, O Lord, must we wait?

“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” So begged the Jews in the portico of the temple. Can you hear the poignancy, the yearning, in their question? How long, O Lord? How long until a Messiah will come and sweep through this city, and make everything right? How long until the corrupt are thrown out of power, the violent contained, the poor fed, and the world restored? How long until political leaders demonstrate compassion? How long until religious leaders repent for the damage they have inflicted? How long until asylum seekers are freed from detention? How long until public schools and hospitals are well-funded and well-run? How long until children in foster care are returned to stable, healthy families? How long until Australia’s First Peoples enjoy the same life expectancy as other Australians? How long, O Lord, must we wait?


To read more, click here.

(Image from
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