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By the Well
28 minutes | 3 days ago
B105 – Repentence, Mercy, Call (Jonah 3 and Mark 1:14-20)
The book of Jonah is deceptively simple. It is often reduced to a children’s tale when, using the vehicle of humour, Jonah delivers challenging themes about the abundant mercy of God – mercy that sees not only our enemies blessed, but that we, like Jonah, might actually be the instrument of that blessing. Repentance, while an implicit theme in Jonah, is more explicit in the Mark passage (1:14-20), and we refer to a theologically nuanced understanding of repentance in contrast to unhelpful, individualistic notions. We speak about the ambivalence amongst many western churches to engage in ‘fishing’, and note the way repentance, good news and evangelism cannot be separated. We refer to an article by Rebecca Giggs Inner Space Ched Myers’ Binding the Strong Man.
26 minutes | a month ago
B104 – Advent 4 (Annunciation and Magnificat, Luke 1:26-38, 46-55)
Rev. Sharon Hollis, President-elect of the Uniting Church, joins the conversation for Advent 4. We discuss how Mary is portrayed as a prophet in Luke 1 and the surprising agency she has (for that time) in speaking her consent (1:26-38) and her song of praise and protest (1:46-55). Her particularity as a young Jewish girl living in occupied territory makes her song the song of colonised women everywhere who draw upon their cultural traditions to proclaim liberation. We note the promise that Jesus will “sit on the throne of David” fulfils the covenant in 2 Samuel 7:1-11 and reveals God’s faithfulness. We refer to Anne Elvey’s Reading the Magnificat in Australia and Elizabeth Johnson’s Truly Our Sister.
30 minutes | a month ago
B103 – Advent 3 (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Luke 1:46-55; John 1:6-8, 19-28)
Dr Angela Sawyer returns to speak about Isaiah 61, a passage that reflects the concerns of returned exiles, the difficulty of life under colonial rule, and hope in God reversing the fortunes of the marginalised. The alternate to the Psalm this week is Mary’s Magnificat, a song that continues these themes hundreds of years later. And the gospel reading gives us another view on John “the Baptist” presenting him as a witness, inviting reflection on how we witness or testify to Christ today. We refer to Ched Myers’ Binding the Strong Man. Vivaldi’s Business Plan by Samuel Wells
32 minutes | 2 months ago
B102 – Advent 2 (Isaiah 40:1-11; Mark 1:1-8)
Dr Angela Sawyer joins us to explore the tender and powerful image of God in Isaiah 40, as well as the cosmic and personal hope the end of exile represents to Israel. We talk about suffering and the yearning for freedom and fulfilment in Israel’s foundational story, and how it informs and shapes ours (communally). In a few short phrases Mark 1 outlines the subversive character of Mark’s writing, and of Jesus’ message of ‘good news’. We note that everybody came to hear John talk about repentance: what is the peculiar task of preaching about repentance in the 21st century? We highlight some key Advent questions: for whom are we waiting and why? We refer to Ched Myers’, Binding the Strong Man and Rick Morton’s One Hundred of Dirt.
25 minutes | 2 months ago
B101 – Advent 1 (Isa 64:1-9; Mark 13:24-37)
The lectionary readings at the beginning of Advent invite us to ponder the inbreaking of God. What might it mean to live as watchful Christians, to raise our eyes above the fray and look for the presence of God in our world? We acknowledge that the cry for divine justice in Isaiah 64 is a cry of both lament and hope. It comes from a colonised people and continues to echo in our current world. Mark 13 takes us into apocalyptic territory, inviting us to consider the coming of Jesus in power and glory with themes that look forward to the cross. We refer to Robert Alter’s Translation of the Hebrew Bible , Ched Myers’ Binding the Strong Man, and an education initiative (including Advent bibles studies) from St Mark the Evangelist: Illuminating Faith
25 minutes | 2 months ago
A155 – Reign of Christ (Ezek 34; Ps 100; Matt 25:31-46)
On the last week of the lectionary year, Fran and Robyn delve into the way the reign of God is described in these readings. Ezekiel 34:11-24 imagines God as a shepherd who protects the sheep, unlike the priests Ezekiel condemns as having failed as leaders. Matthew presents the Son of Man as a judge who will separate humanity as a shepherd divides the sheep from goats on the basis of ethical or righteous behaviour. Both texts convey God as a “king” concerned for justice. The Psalm speaks of the joy of entering God’s presence – balancing the image of judgement in Matthew. We mention this book by Meghan Henning: https://www.amazon.com.au/Educating-Early-Christians-Through-Rhetoric/dp/3161529634
31 minutes | 2 months ago
A154 – Pentecost 24 (Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; Matthew 25: 14-30)
This week is the only chance in the RCL to preach on the book of Judges, specifically on a section about Deborah, the only female of the 6 judges named. We are joined by Monica Melanchthon, who talks about the importance of preaching from Judges, both in spite of its difficult, violent themes, and because of them: much of the conflict in the world echoes the dynamics in the book. The persistent grace of God in recalling the Israelites despite their turning away is the repeated theological theme. Monica redresses some traditional opinions of Deborah, which have underplayed her intelligence and her influence. Psalm 123 is a psalm of Ascent, and Monica points to the potent image of ‘eyes’ which appears throughout, and which signify relationship with the divine. Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents, and we talk about common misreadings that reduce the story to the moral plane. Are the talents gifts of the Holy Spirit given so the church may live in the ‘in between’ times? Is the parable about the risk and commitment at the heart of the faith?
30 minutes | 3 months ago
A153 – Pentecost 23 (Josh 24, 1 Thess 4, Matt 25:1-13)
This week preachers are invited to think about taking the opportunity to talk about resurrection and what happens at “the end” through the parable of the ten wedding attendants in Matthew (25:1-13), which is a way to talk about entrance into the future kingdom of heaven, or Paul’s assurance to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4:13-18) that even the dead will be included in the resurrection. We combat some of the bad rapture theology often associated with this passage too. Joshua 24 invites reflection on how communities remember, recommit to God, and ritualise those commitments. The invitation to choose God in response to being chosen is a reminder of the radical grace of YHWH in these texts, yet the setting invites critique and naming of the problem of colonisation. We refer to this commentary by Craig Keener. https://www.amazon.com.au/Gospel-Matthew-C-Keener/dp/0802864988 and to the Brazos Theological Commentary on Thessalonians 1 & 2 by Douglas Farrow 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)
33 minutes | 3 months ago
A152 – All Saints / Pentecost 22 (1 John 3; Rev 7; Matt 23:1-12)
Rev. Dr. Sunny Chen joins us for a conversation about the Greek words for love, resurrection promises, preaching for All Saints (All Souls) day, and Christian leadership. The All Saints readings discussed are: 1 John 3:1-3, Revelation 7:19-17, and Matt 5:1-12. Those following the regular Sunday passages can hear a discussion of the Matthew 23 passage in the second part of the episode. Hyperlink: For those wanting to explore the Matthew 5 reading for All Saints day, please check out episode A111 with Sally Douglas. https://bythewell.com.au/a111-epiphany-4-matthew-51-12-the-beatitudes-with-sally-douglas/
33 minutes | 3 months ago
A151 – Pentecost 21 (Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90; 1 Thess 2; Matt 22:34-46)
Rev Dev Anandarajan joins us for a conversation about Moses’ humble leadership in the story of his death in Deut 32. Moses is not heard bargaining with God over not getting into the promised land. The story stresses, instead, the centrality of the journey of obedience for a people ‘on the way’. Dev explores psalm 90 for our (covid) context. We note differences in leadership between Moses and Paul (in Thessalonians), and note the radical newness of Jesus’ leadership/messiahship in bringing us over, in him, to the new creation. We explore the nature of the love to which we’re called in Matthew 22.
30 minutes | 6 months ago
A139 – Pentecost 10 (Gen 37, Matt 14:22-33)
Meg Warner joins the podcast to talk about Joseph, favoritism, family dissension and trauma. We discuss how Joseph’s story is contradictory and ambiguous; that Joseph himself is an enigma – which attention to the nuances of his dreams illustrates. We note that though his story is as long as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s, Joseph is not put in their esteemed company – largely for political reasons. Focus on his brothers’ betrayal of Joseph highlights the rippling effects of trauma, at the personal, communal and global levels. We talk about the apocalyptic nature of the miracle in the Matthew reading, and the echoes of Genesis 1 and Exodus 32 which cast Jesus as both the new Moses and the great ‘I am’. Is it an epiphany? We note that Peter’s understanding of faith as obedience: he requested to be commanded to walk. Fear took over when he took his eyes from Jesus. We mention Meg’s Tragedies and Congregations and Joseph: A story of Resilience, and Mary’ Trump’s Too Much is Never Enough.
29 minutes | 6 months ago
A138 – Pentecost 9 (Gen 32, Matt 14)
Brian Kolia joins the podcast to discuss Jacob’s wrestle with God in Genesis 32:22-31. We point to the humour in this story where God takes on some human characteristics and becomes the trickster, a role that has previously been Jacob’s. Relationship with God is associated with both struggle and blessing here, as well as a new identity. Themes of seeing, darkness, and the hope that comes with daybreak also emerge. We note Psalm 17:1-7, 15 picks up many of these themes. The feeding of the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21) parallels the deathly feast of Herod that precedes it, highlighting the difference between the values of God’s kingdom and Herod’s. We point to the egalitarian elements of Matthew’s feast and that in God’s kingdom not only is everyone “satisfied” but there is abundance and enough left for others. Follow us on twitter @bythewellpod.
28 minutes | 6 months ago
A137 – Pentecost 8 (Genesis 29, Romans 8, Matthew 13)
We continue with the Jacob story in Genesis 29:15-28 where themes emerge about God choosing the unlikely person, that God’s plan does not depend on our righteousness, and that God “sees” those whom the world deems unloveable or unimportant. Romans 8:26-39 speaks to the impossibility of us being separated from God’s love and the parables in Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 offer a range of images to describe the Kingdom of Heaven. We refer to Wil Gafney’s Womanist Midrash, Mark Brett’s Genesis and AJ Levine’s Short Stories by Jesus. Follow us on twitter @bythewellpod
28 minutes | 6 months ago
A136 – Pentecost 7 (Gen 28, Roms 8, Matt 13)
The Genesis narrative continues as Jacob encounters God in his dream (Gen 28:10-19a). Key themes here include God’s unfailing faithfulness to his covenant and the unexpected places God encounters us – in vulnerability and in the ordinary. Theologically it is significant that God found Jacob, not the other way round. Romans 8:12-29 continues the focus on God’s persistent delight in being in relationship with us, such that, through Jesus, we receive the lavish gift of adoption. God’s love is both cosmic and intimate. Matthew 13 challenges us to play with parables not as tidy, moralistic tales, but as windows into God, as deceptively simple pictures which reveal glimpses of God’s unique Kingdom. We mention Beverley Roberts Gaventa’s When in Romans, Brendan Byrne’s Romans, and Garry Deverell’s Gondwana Theology.
27 minutes | 6 months ago
A135 – Pentecost 6 (Gen 25, Roms 8 & Matt 13)
The Genesis reading takes us into the “Jacob Cycle” with the story of the twins, Jacob and Esau (Gen 25:19-34). Themes of miraculous births, younger sons usurping older sons, and duelling nations continue. Theologically, these passages affirm that God chooses the frail, sinful, and broken to receive God’s promises and partner in God’s mission, a theme that continues in Romans 8:1-11. We also discuss the parable of the sower/seeds in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – a passage that speaks about the abundance and reckless generosity of God. We refer to Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith, and Revolution, Beverley Gaventa’s When in Romans, Brendan Byrne’s Romans Commentary, Warren Carter’s Matthew Commentary, Ben Myers’ Ten Rules for Preaching Parables, and Bill Loader’s Lectionary page.
31 minutes | 7 months ago
A134 – Pentecost 5 (Song 2, Genesis 24, and Matt 11)
This week the lectionary offers a rare chance to preach on the love poetry known as Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). Hebrew Bible scholar, Brian Kolia, joins the podcast to unpack Genesis 24:34-38, 58-67, Song of Songs 2:8-13, and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. We compare Abraham’s quest to get a wife for his son with the erotic, body positive, love poetry of Song of Songs. Themes of place, ethnicity, and love permeate these Old Testament readings, while Matthew’s gospel compares the yoke of Christ with that of the world. We refer to this article by Elaine James. Find us on Twitter @bythewellpod
31 minutes | 7 months ago
A 133 – Pentecost 4: The Binding of Isaac and True Hospitality (Gen 22 & Matt 10)
This week Robyn and Fran focus on Genesis 22:1-14 – the sacrifice or binding of Isaac. Is this an appalling story of an appalling God? Or a call to obedience in God at all costs? Or a rejection of child sacrifice? We talk about the text being silent on the characters’ psychological dynamics, because of its theological focus. We also discuss Matthew 10:40-42 and note the costly requirement of following Jesus being not simply to offer hospitality, but be willing to be guest – to give up power and control in a genuine posture of missional engagement. We note the nuances in the meaning of ‘welcome’ as it appears in Matthew 10.40. We refer to Mark Brett’s Genesis and Ellen Davis’ Getting Involved With God.
29 minutes | 7 months ago
A131 -Laughter, Hope and Hospitality (Genesis 18 and Matthew 9-10)
Rachel Kronberger joins us this week, the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, when we focus on Genesis 18:1-15 and Matthew 9:35-10:8, with a brief excursus into Romans 5. We trace the covenant promise from Gen 12, and the patience and faith required of Abraham and Sarah. We look closely at Sarah’s role and the subversiveness of her laughter. We note the image of God in Rublev’s (15th cent.) icon with its depiction of the visit of the three figures to Abraham and Sarah as the Trinity, and the way Rublev expresses hospitality in the story. We speak of suffering in both key texts, and note Jesus’ compassion for the people in the Matthew passage, and what it means for the ministry of the whole people of God. We mention Brendan Byrne’s Lifting the Burden, Marylin Robinson’s Home, and Mark Brett’s Genesis. Follow us on Twitter @bythewellpod
30 minutes | 8 months ago
A130 – Trinity Sunday (Gen 1:1-2:4a & Matt 28:16-20)
Do you have to talk about the Doctrine of the Trinity on Trinity Sunday? Well, no. But this Sunday, in particular, invites us to explore our image(s) of God and what it means for humans to be in that image (Genesis 1). We discuss the relational nature of the God revealed in these texts, how we keep sabbath, and the call to mission in Matthew 28:16-20. We refer to the Enuma Elish and Ben Myers’ tweets on the Trinity.
39 minutes | 8 months ago
A129 – Pentecost: Acts 2:1-21 with John Flett
John Flett joins us this week for a rich conversation about Pentecost and mission. We focus Acts 2:1-21 and John 20:19-23, drawing similarities and contrasts in the way the Spirit is portrayed in each text. We talk joy, peace, freedom, and being sent for the sake of the world, not for our own sake. John outlines ‘what not to do’ in a Pentecost sermon, and then offers a more faithful, radical alternative. We mention John’s latest book Questions of Context, and an article by Craig Barnes, The Spirituality of Quarantine.
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