Monday, December 24, 2018

For Christmas hope and healing, look to the shadows

All around the world, people are preparing. The fridges are filled; the tables are set; the gifts are wrapped and waiting under the tree. The tinsel shimmers and Sinatra sings, as the world prepares for Christmas. It’s a wonderful time, a joyful time; we should all be so excited. So why, for so many of us, does it feel so hard?

Read here, or listen here.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Winnowing out only violence, or The move from John to Jesus

Some years back, I saw a woman in a carpark smacking her child. And as she smacked, she yelled, “WE DO NOT HIT IN THIS FAMILY! WE LOVE!” It reminded me of those ostensibly Biblical parenting models, in which cool and collected parents maintain discipline by spanking their naughty children—and then lovingly use the moment as a teaching opportunity. Because the people being hit are children, and because our society doesn’t rate children’s experiences very highly, we adults can miss the contradiction here. Yet if we substitute ‘women’ for ‘children’, perhaps things become clearer: even if it’s ‘just a smack’, there is a mixed message going on, to say the least.

Read here or listen here.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Rethinking Forgiveness

A year or two ago, someone outside the church contacted me. They had come across one of my sermons, and they wanted to talk. We met, and I asked what was bothering them. “We-ell,” they said, “It’s as if you’re saying that God loves us even before we have repented.” “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” I said. “I can’t accept that,” they replied, “That’s definitely not right.” Read here, or listen here.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Terrified by global warming? Follow the children!

This week, thousands of children around Australia participated in the School Strike 4 Climate Action, and it was magnificent! Like too many adults, whenever I think about climate change, I feel overwhelmed. We are facing the catastrophic collapse of vast ecosystems on which our lives depend; countless other species are hurtling towards extinction. Out-of-control wildfires dot the globe; terrifying hurricanes and storm surges wreak havoc; formerly arable land has been turned into desert. All around us, governments and disaster capitalists and environmental hoodlums keep chopping down trees and mining the land and opting for coal and pumping carbon into the atmosphere. They will not change, and there seems to be nothing I can do ...

Read here.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Revelation at Armageddon

To get to Armageddon, known in Hebrew as ‘Megiddo’, we drive past an airfield. Our Israeli guide tells us about the Syrian fighter pilot who defected there in 1989. He was flying a Soviet-made MIG-23, which provided Israel with valuable military intelligence—and it feels like nothing ever changes. For in the Hebrew Bible, Megiddo is the site of many clashes where victory is attributed to God; in the book of Revelation, it’s the site where the kings of the world are assembled for a final battle. And so for many people Megiddo, or Armageddon, has long been associated with the destructive violence we expect from military rulers, whether human or divine: and the military is still active here. Read here, or listen here.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Visions of an Angry Prophet

I recently came across the idea of a life verse: that is, the idea that there is a Bible verse for each of us which encapsulates who we are, and guides our journey of faith. I rolled my eyes. Straightaway, two verses hit me. From Jonah: “It is indeed right for me to be angry, even unto death.” And from Psalm 139: “You knit me in my mother’s womb; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

A reflection given to the BUV, 20 October 2018, and expanded for Sanctuary, 28 October 2018. Read here, or listen here.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Suffering: Who's to blame?

There is a story in the gospel according to John which begins like this: Jesus was walking along when he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” These days, we’re not quite so quick to blame people for being differently abled or ill. And yet when my mother, Ruth, had multiple sclerosis, I lost count of the number of people who became frustrated, even angry, with her. “But she’s such a good person!” they said, “How can she be so sick?” “But we’re praying!” they said, “Why isn’t she getting better? Is she praying, too?”

Read more here, or listen here.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Tale of Three Donkeys

The story of Balaam and his donkey shows what big asses we can be.

Read here, or listen here.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Holy Gossip

Is all gossip bad? Or could there be a gift in gossip? Read here, or listen here.

A response to James 3:1-12 given to Sanctuary, 16 September 2018 (BP19)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Church without Boundaries

Churches and religious organisations regularly exclude people from full participation, but following Jesus means demolishing all boundaries and seeking Christ beyond the walls of the church. Read here, or listen here.

A message for a congregation preparing to commit to the next twelve months, drawing from Mark 7:24-30. Sanctuary, 9 September 2018 (Year B Proper 18, BP18).

Sunday, September 2, 2018

You Are Not Defiled

In tonight’s reading, religious leaders criticise Jesus’ disciples for failing to wash their hands in the correct ritual way before they eat. Jesus pushes back, hard, and goes on to say that we are not defiled by what we eat and drink. Instead, it’s the things we say and do which can defile us. But what if his disciples were criticised, not for failing to keep kosher, but for failing to maintain "Biblical family values"? For a region hard-hit by clergy abuse, here's a new take on a old story ... Listen here, or read here.

A reflection on Mark 7:1-8, 14-23 given to Sanctuary on 2 September 2018 (BP17; Year B Proper 17) © Alison Sampson, 2018. Image shows Emmaus (2000) by Emmanuel Garibay, found here.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Senator Anning vs Christo-Cannibalism, and the New Community of Love

For many years, our family shared Christmas lunch with friends and strangers. We’d put the word out, and eat with whoever wanted. One year, it was huge. Friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, all turned up at our door. Some of them I knew and loved; others, I hadn’t met before. But gradually I came to realise: almost everyone there was gay. And almost everyone came from a religious family, which had rejected them because of their sexuality ...

Read here, or listen here.

A reflection on John 6:51-58, given to Sanctuary on 19 August 2018 (BP15; Year B Proper 15) © Alison Sampson, 2018.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

One Body, One Spirit, One Church Review

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to a church two thousand years and 14,000 kilometres away; and yet, it speaks loud and clear to us gathered here today. This Saturday 11 August, we will hold our annual review. And it will be a heap of fun. The review questions have been woven into party games, and so most of it should feel like play. But behind the play is serious intent, and it is that serious intent which I will focus on now ... Read here, or listen here.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Healed to Serve

The disciples have returned from preaching and healing around the villages. In the face of people’s need, they have barely had time to eat, so Jesus invites them to come away to a deserted place and rest awhile. Yet the crowd guesses where they’re going, and meets them there. When Jesus sees the mob, his guts wrench with compassion, and he begins to teach and heal once again …

Read tonight's reflection here.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

News flash! King David: An undercover exposé

Tonight, a very playful script re-telling 2 Samuel 6:1-22 here.

We followed it with a more formal reflection, here.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Bloody hell

Jairus is a big shot: he’s a deacon at the church on the hill. Everyone knows his name. He’s a Rotarian; he’s a member of the golf club; his photo’s always in the local paper. But he has a twelvie, a daughter, who’s really, really sick, so sick she’s about to die. So Jairus comes to Jesus and begs him: “Heal my daughter! Touch her, rescue her, let her live!” Jesus agrees, so they start walking to the house, the crowd pressing in; and in the crowd is a woman ... Read here, or listen here.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Into the Storm: A Script

Tonight at Sanctuary we re-told a story from the gospel according to Mark in which Jesus sleeps in a boat, a storm blows in, and the disciples panic. By way of background, Mark uses the image of a boat as a symbol for the gathered community of faith; crossing to the other shore suggests moving between Jewish and Gentile territories.  As you participate in the story, then, you might want to reflect on times when you have seen a faith community attacked: What provoked the attack? And what enabled the community to continue in its course of action (if it did)? Or you might want to reflect on your own relationship with Jesus: Are you a student, content to value his teaching? Or are you a disciple, who seeks to internalise his teaching? Read here.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Beloved Son: A Meditation

Tonight we re-tell a story from the gospel of Mark in which Jesus’ family think he’s crazy; the religious experts accuse him of being demon possessed; and Jesus talks in riddles, then questions family ties. The original text is dense, and easily obscured by our deeply held social values and longing for judgement. Therefore, I’ve expanded, adding commentary, in the hope that this re-telling sheds some light on the passage and leaves you with good questions to ponder. The simple refrain is included to give you an opportunity to sing gently and reflect on what the preceding paragraph reveals. Read here.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

One Rule to Ring Them All

Tonight we reflect on a story in the gospel of Mark, when a man with a withered hand reaches out to Jesus and is healed. Yet it’s the Sabbath, and so the Pharisees go ballistic. But first … another story. A Catholic woman I know grew up in St Kilda, with a synagogue at the end of her street. One Friday night, when the Sabbath was already underway, there was a knock at the door. Her parents were sitting around in their dressing gowns, reading, but her mother got up, and answered the door anyway. There she found a few of their neighbours, Orthodox Jewish men. “The lights are out in the synagogue!” they said. “We can’t turn them on [it was something they were forbidden to do on the Sabbath] … so would you mind coming and switching them on?” ...

Read here, or listen here.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Birthed by the Spirit: Beloved by God

Tonight at Sanctuary, we heard John 3:5-8 and Romans 8:12-17, listened to Womb by Toni Childs, then had a guided meditation on the life-giving, loving nature of God. You can find it all here.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pentecost: A Primer

The depth of Pentecost is revealed when we pay attention to some older traditions. Click here to read a reflection on Acts 2:1-21 given to Sanctuary, 20 May 2018.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Becoming Heaven on Earth

For many, Mothers Day is a day of absence. How might the ancient story of the Ascension speak to those who are grieving now?

A reflection given to Sanctuary on 13 May 2018. Read here, or listen here.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Eating Out-of-Bounds: The Culture of God

Tonight we have a great story about food: and it makes me wonder: Who do you eat with? But first, the story. As a Jewish man, Peter will not eat certain foods; but in a vision God shows him all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds, and tells him to kill and eat. And as prawn-cracker-crunching pork-chop-eating Gentile followers of Jesus, it’s easy for us to roll our eyes and say, Well, duh!! But we can only say “duh!” because we are beneficiaries of Peter’s response to this vision. For while he is still pondering what he has seen, he is invited to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. On the basis of the vision, Peter the Jew accepts.

Read here, or listen here.

A reflection on Acts 10 and John 15:9-17 given to Sanctuary on 6 May 2018 © Alison Sampson, 2018.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Cut to the Heart

The Ethiopian eunuch is cut off in every way. A precious part of him has been sliced off, and this loss defines him: for we do not know his name. Instead, we just know that he is a eunuch. And as a eunuch, he has been cut off from having children, and from establishing a family line. He is an Ethiopian, a Gentile. Even so, something in Judaism has attracted him: perhaps from the Isaiah scroll which he studies so carefully in his chariot. Perhaps it is the promise from Isaiah 56, that God’s heart extends to the eunuch and the foreigner; that they, too, may become members of the covenant. And perhaps with this promise ringing in his ears, the Ethiopian eunuch travels to Jerusalem to worship ... Read here, or listen here.

A reflection on Acts 8:26-40 and Isaiah 56, with allusion to John 15:1-8, given to Sanctuary, 29 April 2018 (B36) © Alison Sampson, 2018. Image shows The Baptism of the Eunuch by Rembrandt (Public Domain).

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Living Death, or Resurrection Life: You Choose

Kathleen Norris tells a story of two women she knew, both of whom were diagnosed with terminal cancer. The first woman said, “If I ever get out of this hospital, I’m going to look out for Number One.” Despite the diagnosis, she survived, and went on to live only for herself—and, as Norris writes, “it made her mean.” The second reflected on the blessings of her life, despite some acute early losses. This woman read the Psalms, and said to Norris, “The one thing that scares me is the pain. I hope I die before I turn into an old bitch.” And that’s exactly what happened ... Keep reading here, or listen here.

A reflection on John 12:20-33 given to Sanctuary, 18 March 2018.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Sacrificial Cult of Work

Our culture of work creates meaning and identity in ways which can be bound up in faithfulness, but which can also risk idolatry and perpetuate the exclusion and suffering of those who cannot fully access the meaning and status it gives. It has strong echoes of the sacrificial cult of the Jerusalem Temple. How, then, might Jesus preach into the sacrificial cult of work and professional achievement today? Read here.

A reflection on John 2:13-22 given to Sanctuary, 4 March 2018 (B20)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

Once upon a time, my fiancé and I were living in North Fitzroy; and we were married by Paul Turton at the North Carlton Baptist Church. We stood before the congregation, and made our promises, and were declared a wedded couple. Straightaway, I met a surprising number of interesting, intelligent, and attractive men. I began wondering if my own interesting, intelligent, and attractive man was really the best option, or whether I had made a colossal mistake; and I found myself wrestling with demons of pride, and doubt, and desire...

Read more here, or listen here.

A reflection on Mark 1:9-15 (B18) for the first week of Lent, for Sanctuary.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Women's Work: Ministry or Service?

The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law led her to ministry. But what sort of ministry was it? And what might this mean for our kids - and us? Read here, or listen here.

A reflection on Mark 1:29-39 by Alison Sampson for Sanctuary, 4 February 2018 (B15)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Good Sandwich, Great Teaching

What gives Jesus' teaching such authority? and what does this imply for us? Read here, or listen here.

A reflection on Mark 1:21-28 for Sanctuary, 28 January 2018 (B14)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The God Made Known in Every Child

You were born, and you were not perfect, and gradually you realised that no one else is, either. We have lumps and bumps, weaknesses and foibles, rashes and allergies, disabilities and mucked up biochemistry and over-reactive guts, crippling anxiety and fear and depression and doubt—is this what divine handiwork looks like? Read here, or listen here.

A reflection on Psalm 139 and 1 Samuel 1:1-10 given to Sanctuary, 14 January 2018
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