Saturday, August 29, 2020


The year the world was introduced to Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challah / Black Panther, Boseman was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. Everything he went on to do with that and other roles, he did while being hollowed out, from the inside out, by the cancer and by his surgeons. This is, now, his legacy.

Chances are, you don’t have cancer right now; but, also, that you are being hollowed out by some malaise of our times. Chances are even higher you aren’t a Hollywood actor; but, nonetheless, your life-work tells a story that can inspire others.

The best way I know of to both overcome the gnawing and live a life that invites others to live their life fully—and I think Boseman knew this—is to sit in the counsel of the ancestors before you sit in the council of the ancestors.

For me, this is very much still an ongoing struggle. Salve, Chadwick Boseman. Rest in peace and power. Rise in glory.

Thursday, August 27, 2020


The Lectionary readings for Holy Communion today are 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 and Matthew 24:42-51.

[1] In the passage from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable in which the master to whom we are all accountable is delayed in returning, in which the one given charge of the household might persist in diligent service of others or take opportunistic advantage to exploit those for whom they have oversight.

[2] In the opening verses of what is commonly referred to as Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, but is in fact Paul and Sosthenes’ letter, they write, not once but twice, of being strengthened to endure: ‘just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you’…’He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be faithful on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

This is no coincidence. Sosthenes’ name combines two root words, the first meaning to save or be saved, and the second meaning to strengthen or be strengthened. As a ‘Christian’ name (as a name given new focus and purpose by Christ) it points to the One who both saves and strengthens.

[3] Today, the Church remembers Monica, the black African mother who prayed for seventeen years that her son, Augustine, might come to put his hope in Jesus. For seventeen years, there was no evidence that her prayers were heard, let alone being answered. There was no evidence that Augustine was being drawn back to the faith Monica had raised him in as a child. And yet, after seventeen years her prayer was answered. Augustine went on to become a great theologian, and, indeed, a bishop.

I cannot think of Monica this year without thinking also of Julia Jackson, the black American mother of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man shot seven times in the back by a so-called law enforcement officer. And of her prayer for the healing, not only of her son but—from before he was shot to public attention—of her racially divided nation.

[4] Yesterday, the theologian Miroslav Volf posted on Facebook, ‘When we lack reasons for optimism, hope is what we need. Optimism is about the future that grows out of the present. Hope is about the future beyond the possibilities latent in the present. Like the birth of Isaac, the object of hope is a new thing not coming from the situation we are in, but from God.’

There is nothing in Julia Jackson’s situation to be optimistic about, just as there was no reason for Monica to be optimistic. It is hope, alone, that resists despair, or the abandonment of doing what is right in favour of doing what is expedient or self-serving.

[5] We need to experience strengthening, because we are in this for the long haul, before we will see that which we hope for made manifest in our situation. The mother who prays for her children’s future, as she takes them to the food bank. The army veteran, contemplating suicide as they struggle with civilian life. The elderly man whose wife died not so long ago and whose daughter has just died of cancer, who cannot even imagine tomorrow and needs strength just for today, and today, and today, until tomorrow dawns. We need to know that the One who has saved us, and is saving us, and will save us, has strengthened us and is strengthening us and will strengthen us.

This is why Paul writes with Sosthenes.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020


The Old Testament reading set for Morning Prayer today was 1 Samuel 26, an extract from the life of David. At this point in his life, David and his companions are outlaws. The older, power-holding and deeply insecure king Saul is seeking to take away their hope of a future, and they have been betrayed, to Saul’s advantage (and not for the first time) by the wider community around them. David takes a friend with him, and together they sneak into Saul’s camp by night, indeed, right into Saul’s tent while he and his right-hand-men are caught sleeping.

David’s friend sees this as a moment of opportunity, to rid themselves of Saul once-and-for-all. But David will not permit it. Saul’s downfall will come, in God’s time not at David’s hand. Instead, he takes Saul’s spear and water jar, and retreats to a safe distance. From there, he wakes the guard, exposing their incompetence, but keeping the focus on the injustice of Saul’s actions, humbly asking to be heard and using the situation to appeal for reconciliation. In this, David succeeds, albeit that Saul, true to form, will later go back on his promises.

In his wisdom, David sets an example for us in our own polarised context, and at a time when our young people find themselves thrown under the bus, of forbearance. Of refusing to enact character assassination by social media or perpetuate strife, while nonetheless exposing incompetence and highlighting injustice and taking a stand for the future of our young people, and other marginalised groups.

There is much heat and very little light this summer around (clear) governmental sleep-walking incompetence and injustice. The outstanding question is, how will the Church support young people to grow into their calling in such a world?