Morsels 2018 November

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these versions of the messages are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

Fri – 181130
Title
Andrew, brother of Simon Peter
Body
Today we observe the festival of St Andrew. This minor character from the Twelve is honoured posthumously as the founder of the see of Constantinople and the patron saint of Russia, the Ukraine, Romania and Scotland. Little is known of the historical figure behind these legends, but it seems he and his brother (Peter) were among several of Jesus’ disciples who came from the village of Bethsaida. In the Eastern Churches, Andrew is honoured as the Protokletos (the first-called), due to the tradition in the Gospel of John where Jesus invited Andrew to follow him, and Andrew later encourages Peter to join up as well. As the brother of Simon Peter, Andrew has been embraced by religious and ethnic communities seeking a patron saint who offers them some leverage against Roman claims to privilege based on the authority of Peter. As the Protokletos—and the one who brought Peter to Jesus—Andrew offers a spiritual authority which seems less coercive. Andrew offers a model of faith that seeks to serve rather than to dominate. For that we are indeed grateful.
Thr – 181129
Title
The point of religion
Body
As the Gospel of Mark presents the opening episodes from its story of Jesus, we find him and the disciples walking through a field on the Sabbath, picking grain to make a snack. In response to criticism from the Pharisees, Jesus offers a rebuttal that must have stung their ears: “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” The point of religion is not to make us religious, but to make us more fully and gloriously alive.
Wed – 181128
Title
Who needs the doctor?
Body
The lectionary for morning prayer this week draws on the opening scenes on the Gospel of Mark, and today we are offered the story of the paralysed man healed by Jesus after his friends smash a hole in the roof of the little house in Capernaum where Jesus was staying. I have been to the location many times. The jumble of small houses, mostly no larger than 5m x 5m but with an upper level accessed by rough stone steps, are clustered together in the insulae formation. Access to several adjoining homes is via a single shared entrance. Not much space. Very easily blocked by a crowd. Later in the day, reflecting on the events, Jesus offers this aphorism: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” We hear and respond to Jesus’ call to embrace healing and life. And we seek not to block others from doing the same. Rip off the roof if it stops people getting to the physician of their soul. We can fix the buildings (or the institution) after everyone is healed.
Tue – 181127
Title
Choosing life …
Body
The Gospel for morning prayer today has an interesting exchange between a leper and Jesus: A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ [Mark 1:40–41] “if you choose … I do choose …” The leper is choosing to take a risk. Maybe Jesus was as well. Choosing can be an act of hope and deep trust. Today, we choose life. Health. Wholeness.
Mon – 181126
Title
Stir up, we pray you, O Lord
Body
The traditional prayer for the Sunday before Advent is now used each day during the week between the Feast Christ the King (yesterday) and Advent Sunday: Stir up, we pray, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. This prayer has entered into our culture as “Stir Up Sunday”; a time when those making Christmas puddings were reminded to gather the ingredients and give the mix a good stir. See the web link for more details. In the meantime, may Jesus stir us up so we get engaged in compassionate action for the common good.
SUN – 18125
Title
The Reign of Christ
Body
The Cathedral Church of Christ the King in Grafton (like our sister Cathedral in Newcastle) is celebrating our feast of title today. My sermon on this feast last year, included these observations: What does it mean for us to be a cathedral community dedicated to Christ as our ‘king’? The term ‘king’ can be problematic here as it reflects a world of empire and certainty. We have neither. The empire has fallen. We live in a time of transition, and uncertainty is the air we breathe. But that exaggerated title still speaks to our core values:
* we are a community for whom Jesus is central
* it is no longer a claim to privilege
* it is no longer a claim to certainty
* but it is certainly our cardinal orientation
We are a community where Jesus matters:
* what he believed, we believe
* how he acted, is our model for action
* how he treated people, is our guide for life
Sat – 181124
Title
Hildegard of Bingen
Body
In a week when we have reflected on the legacy of Hannah, it seems appropriate to hear from another of the outstanding women of spirit, Hildegarde of Bingen (1098–1179 CE). “Holy Spirit, the life that gives life: You are the cause of all movement. You are the breath of all creatures. You are the salve that purifies our souls. You are the ointment that heals our wounds. You are the fire that warms our hearts. You are the light that guides our feet. Let all the world praise you.“ – Hildegard of Bingen
Fri – 181123
Title
Hannah’s Song
Body
After a couple of years have passed, Hannah brings her young child to Eli the priest at Shiloh, in fulfilment of her vow. In the narrative she then sings a psalm of thanksgiving, but the song she chooses is one that reflects a time in Israel’s history when there were kings in power. The Song of Hannah is a song grounded in the experience of a ‘barren’ woman who has been blessed with children: seven of them in this case. Her fortunes have been reversed by the God who is her Rock and her Salvation. Similar sentiments can be found in the close parallels at Psalm 113 and 2 Samuel 22. We can see why this song was placed on the lips of Hannah by the storyteller. Centuries later, when the author of the Gospel of Luke created his poetic story of the miraculous conceptions of both John and Jesus, he drew on the traditions about Hannah and Samuel. The Song of Mary that Luke created for his character to sing, was largely inspired by the ancient Song of Hannah. Both songs celebrate the reversal caused when the mighty are cast down and the lowly lifted up. The legacy of Hannah continues in these revolutionary words of the Magnificat. God turns our world upside down. God lifts up the lowly and casts down the privileged.
Thr – 181122
Title
What’s in a name?
Body
Hannah names her child of promise, Samuel. Picking a name for a child is a significant moment, and sometimes a long and complex process. Let’s pause and reflect on that for a moment. Do we know why our own parents chose our name for us? Have we shared with our children the reasons why we chose the names they now have? Faith at home can be built from sharing such simple yet profound stories.
Wed – 181121
Title
Hannah story, part 2
Body
A second thing to note about the story of Hannah: this is about a matter that is central to female identity. Hannah is desperate to have a child. Yes, Hannah has a husband. But he plays a very minor role in the story. Actually, it is more correct to say that Hannah shared her husband with another woman. It is complicated, we might say. ‘Biblical marriage’ rarely involved one man being married to one woman, and that there are many different forms of sexual relationships described in these ancient stories. But this text is not offering us a model for marriage. Its focus lies elsewhere. Of course, in the nature of things, the other woman was not having any trouble producing several children for their shared husband. This is a familiar motif in several OT narratives. For the ancient storytellers—and their audiences—such a detail in the story tells us nothing about the gynaecological health of the women. Rather, it is a ‘sign’ that God is at work, and that the child who will eventually be born to the woman who struggles to conceive naturally is going to be a very special person when he grows up. (The child seems always to be a male in the Bible stories.) Hannah is not simply a meme in someone else’s story. She is in charge of her fertility and she wants to have her own child. Maybe more, but one for starters. This is ‘herstory’, not his-tory. Issues of fertility and rivalry with other women rarely get named in church, even though they are a significant part of the lived experience of many women. They touch the lives of men deeply as well. Just ask Henry VIII! But we tiptoe around these challenges and pretend that we are all ‘happy’ and ‘normal’ folks. In the process we offer little hope to Hannah’s twenty-first century sisters Hannah calls us to openness, courage, transparency and hope. That is what salvation looks like for many real people on the fringes of our church. And even at the centre of our faith community.
Tue – 181120
Title
The day of the child
Body
Today is Universal Children’s Day. As we noted on Sunday, our children are gifts. We nurture and shape them, but they do not belong to us. They are bound to us and we to them, but we do not own them. As parents we are preparing our children to leave—and to become all that God has in store for them; in addition, we are also preparing ourselves to let them go. We pray for all children who are deprived of the joy of living and learning because of the fear of corporal punishment. Let us end the silence that condoned violence against children and the laws that perpetuate it. We know that it is impossible to achieve justice and peace while countless children suffer violence at the hands of those who should care for them. Inspire us to work together to transform our world and make it fit for children. And may no child be left behind.
Mon – 181119
Title
Hannah’s story
Body
The reading from 1 Samuel 1 on Sunday morning offers something rare in the Bible: a woman’s voice. We will look at the Song of Hannah later in the week, but for now let’s focus on the story of this feisty woman who will not be diverted from her quest by the reassurance of her husband or her priest. First of all, this is essentially a woman’s story. That is unusual in the Bible, where most of the stories are told about men and told by men. Hannah’s story has been shared and remembered by women, no doubt surviving in the oral tradition. This reminds us that women have always had their own perspective on the God story, and men mostly are unaware of it or else undervalue women’s perspective on life and faith. How might Christianity be different now if women were not excluded from the process of forming doctrine and shaping ministry? Hannah not only tells her story but she also gets her name into the tale. Again, that makes her different from the few women whose stories survived but whose names were mostly forgotten. Hannah demands that we hear her story and that we know about her. She has a name. And a voice.
SUN – 181118
Title
Hannah and Samuel
Body
Our first reading in church today tells the story of Hannah and her baby, Samuel. This ancient story offers simple and profound truth for us all. Our children are gifts. We nurture and shape them, but they do not belong to us. They are bound to us and we to them, but we do not own them. As parents we are preparing our children to leave—and to become all that God has in store for them; in addition, we are also preparing ourselves to let them go.
Sat – 181117
Title
Jonah 6
Body
Biblical truth is a major concern for many conservative Christians. For them the story of Jonah must really have happened, just the way the Bible says, if the Scriptures are to be ‘true’. Ditto for the creation stories, the legends of Israel’s ancestors, the exodus tradition, the ethnic cleansing of Canaan by Joshua, etc, etc. Increasingly we are aware that the Bible’s spiritual value lies not so much in its historicity as in the spiritual wisdom it offers us. We are not seeking ‘facts’ from the past when we read the Bible, but wisdom for today. And ‘today’ is a very different time in human history than the Middle East of 2,000 years ago.
Fri – 181116
Title
Jonah 5
Body
Chapter 5? There are only four chapters in the book of Jonah, but the story does not stop there. This little book has an impressive literary afterlife in Jewish literature, in Christian theology, and in art. A Google search will yield 5.7 million results in less than one second. Here are three brief examples: 1. In the post-biblical tradition Jonah is identified with the widow’s son who Elijah restores to life in Zarephath. After returning from Nineveh, he had taken his mum and gone into exile, and even tried to escape God by death, but God sent Elijah to restore him to life. No escaping the call to be a prophet. Ever. 2. In the “Lives of the prophets” Jonah is remembered for a prophecy that the destruction of the Jerusalem would be near when the stones cry out. Jerusalem replaces Nineveh as the sinful city, while Jesus’ saying that “even the stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40) suddenly gets a prophetic context. 3. In modern Jewish art, Jonah being spat from the whale and returned to dry land is a parable of the Jews returning to the land of Israel after their long exile in Europe. Jonah is not the only biblical text with such an ‘afterlife’. The Scriptures linger in the imagination of our culture long after people stop reading them.
Thr – 181115
Title
Jonah 4
Body
The last chapter is very short but it is the point of the whole book. Jonah descends into a bad mood because God has made him look stupid by relenting on the destruction of the city. He sits on a hill outside the city to watch and wait. It is hot. God makes a little plant grow quickly to give the sad prophet some shade, but then sends a worm to attack the plant so that it dies and Jonah has no shade. Jonah is angry with God. I knew you would do this, and now you have taken away the one bit of comfort I had. “Jonah,” says the Lord. “There are more than 120,000 innocent people in that city, as well as lots of animals. They deserve my compassion.” And not one of them was a believer … yet each of them was loved by God.
Wed – 181114
Title
Jonah 3
Body
Crunch time. Jonah goes to Nineveh as God ‘suggests’ and gets straight to work. He marches into the huge city and proclaims the imminent devastation that God is going to send upon the city. Within forty days. Then his worst fears are realised. This reluctant preacher finds that everyone listens to his sermon. They all take it to heart. They all repent. Everyone last one of them. Even the cattle are dressed in sackcloth and denied food and water. So God changes her mind and decided not to destroy the city. How embarrassing for Jonah. Sometimes it is hard to be gracious …
Tue – 181113
Title
Jonah 2
Body
Have you ever wondered how to pass the time while trapped in the belly of a giant fish? One of my favourite examples of Jonah in art has him seated at a desk working by lamp light on a manuscript, with a massive circular window offering him impressive ocean views (evocative of Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea). In the Bible, the second chapter of this very short book has Jonah singing a psalm before being spat forth onto dry land. Scripture—and especially the Psalms—can be a significant source of wisdom and comfort. What are your favourite biblical passages? Even when you are not inside the belly of a giant fish!
Mon – 181112
Title
Jonah 1
Body
For the next few days we have a series of readings from Jonah in the lectionary for morning prayer, so the Morsels this week will begin offer some reflections on this much loved but little understood story in the Bible. The story is not really about the fish at all, but about a prophet who does not want to help rescue his people’s most threatening enemies from the devastation God plans to visit upon Nineveh. The fish is a distraction, although a very handy flotation aid for the runaway, castaway, don’t wannabe prophet. The call of God on our life can be a tricky business, and especially when it demands that we show compassion to those we fear.
SUN – 181111 – Remembrance Day
Title
Remembrance Day
Body
God of the nations, whose sovereign rule brings justice and peace, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Shed abroad your peace in the hearts of all and banish from them the spirit that makes for war, that all races and peoples may learn to live as members of one family and in obedience to your law, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [A Prayer Book for Australia]
Sat – 181110
Title
For the peace of Jerusalem
Body
The psalm for today’s Eucharist invites us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” (Psalm 122:6–8 NRSV) Peace in Jerusalem will come when there is justice for all its people, and authentic reconciliation between the adherents of the Abrahamic religions. May that day come. Soon.
Fri – 181109
Title
Making heaven happy
Body
The weekday Eucharistic lectionary today has two “lost and found” parables from Jesus: the lost sheep, and the lost coin (Luke 15:1–10). In the first, a compassionate shepherd jeopardises the well-being of 99 sheep to go searching for one lost sheep. In the second, a woman turns her home upside down while searching for a lost coin to complete her set of 10 coins. There is a hint of humour, almost satire, in each of these brief parables. The shepherd not only risks losing more of his sheep as he leaves them unattended while searching for the single lost sheep, but he then throws a party to celebrate the finding of the lost sheep. And we can guess who was probably on the menu! Likewise, the woman invites her friends over to celebrate finding her missing coin. We are not told the cost of the celebration, but we can presume there was not much value left from the recovered coin. The point of these quirky parables is the spontaneous celebration by the shepherd and the householder. Their uncomplicated delight reflects the delight among in heaven when a single person turns back to God. Our repentance makes the angels happy.
Thr – 181108 – Saints & Martyrs of Anglican Communion
Title
The heart of the matter
Body
The default lectionary readings from last Sunday also included Mark’s version of the question about which commandment is the most important for us to observe. See Mark 12:28–34. Jesus replies with what we often call “the two great commandments”: love God with your whole being (heart, soul, mind and strength) and love your neighbour as yourself. Mark develops this in a different direction from Matthew and Luke, and has the questioner affirm the answer given by Jesus: love for others is more important than the rituals and sacrifices of the temple. How simple can it get: compassion is what matters most.
Wed – 181007
Title
Radical Jesus
Body
It’s impossible to be devoted to the Jesus of the Scriptures, while refusing refugees, expelling immigrants, vilifying brown people, worshiping political power, guarding borders, and neglecting the poor—which is exactly the point.
Tue – 181106
Title
The mind of Christ
Body
This morning the ecumenical cycle of weekday readings offers us the passage from Philippians 2:5–11, which is the earliest Christian devotional hymn to have survived from the first followers of Jesus. This a hymn known to the fledgling Christian community in Philippi, and Paul quotes several lines of the hymn to make a point as he appeals for his readers to stop bickering among themselves. “… though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave …” Where we might imagine divinity offers us a chance to exploit our privilege, these early Christians celebrated Jesus as the one who emptied himself and became the servant of all. May that mind be in us … indeed.
Mon – 181105
Title
Show me a coin
Body
Those faith communities which observed All Saints & All Souls this past Sunday will have missed one of the classic moments in the ministry of Jesus. His opponents asked a question about paying tax to the Roman occupying authorities, thinking Jesus was trapped whichever way he answered. Jesus demands to see a coin and then asks whose head is on the coin. Hearing that the coin bore the image of the emperor, he famously replied: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God! Jesus leaves us pondering: What exactly belongs to God? What might the powers that be properly demand of me? Where are my deepest loyalties attached?
SUN – 181104
Title
Stairway from heaven
Body
In popular thought heaven is a destination to which we aspire. The alternative destination is not so desirable. We imagine a stairway to heaven … As often happens, the readings for church today turn our unexamined certainties upside down. Jesus came to proclaim the coming of God’s reign among us. He was not selling tickets for a journey to heaven. How did we so quickly forget that simple reality. The reading from Revelation 21 speaks of the God who comes to dwell among us, transforming our world and us in the process: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; …”
Sat – 181103
Title
True wisdom
Body
So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
—Psalm 90:12
Fri – 181102
Title
All Souls Day
Body
It is an ancient custom to observe the day after All Saints Day as a time of prayer for the faithful departed, who are distinguished from the “Saints” simply by virtue of not having been recognised as worthy of inclusion in the liturgical calendar. Today tends to have a more intimate focus than All Saints Day, as we are more likely to be remembering those we have known, and especially those who have died in the past year. Keeping our loved ones “alive in our memories” is a beautiful and natural spiritual reflex. If nothing—not even death—can separate us from God, it is also true that not even death separates us from those we love.
Thr – 181101
Title
All Saints Day
Body
From one of the hymns we shall be using next Sunday morning: Rejoice in God’s saints, today and all days: A world without saints forgets how to praise. In loving, in living, they prove it is true: Their way of self-giving, Lord, leads us to you. Frederick Pratt Green 1903 – 2000

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church​ Cathedral in Grafton.
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