Thursday, 29 March 2018

Peter's Confession

The last time I spoke to you I said,
“How could you?
“How could you possibly suggest that I could pretend I don’t know you?”
...because you know me…

You know me.
You know I say things I don’t mean
and mean things I don’t say.
All of my enthusiasm gets in the way. 

I am full of impulse, excitement...regret.
My words get tangled like an old fishing net.
You know me, but I am prone to forget who I am. 

I am…
“Who do you say that I am?” You asked.
I remember that. 

We were in the villages around Caesarea Philippi.
We’d gone out to get away from all the people
The crowds who came to you and called to you.
They called you a prophet, back from the dead,
Elijah, Jeremiah, John bar Zechariah. 

But I knew that wasn’t quite true.
I knew you.
You were Jesus bar Joseph, Mary’s son.
A well trained carpenter
A well read Rabbi
A good for nothing Galilean with God on your side.

I knew exactly who you were
and where you were from

yet I knew there was something
inexplicable and mysterious about you.

I was with you when thousands of hungry people were fed on next to nothing.
When men who were deaf, mute and blind were made whole.
When a woman, a Grecian at that, begged you to heal her daughter, and you did.
When the water, the water I know so well, yet never understand,
became your walkway a firm ground beneath your feet.

….‘Who do you say that I am?’
You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.

See, I knew you.
You were the long awaited Messiah.
The one who would rescue us and restore Israel.  
I knew you.
I knew exactly who you were and what you would do.
I was to go with you - even if it meant I would be put in prison or put to death.
Nothing would stop me because nothing would stop you.
I knew!
At least I thought I did.

I don’t know anything any more.
I felt that for the first time when I entered the High Priest's courtyard
and sat on the floor.
She saw me there, the servant girl.
I sat by the firelight - desperate for the flames to draw out the darkness in me
and bring warmth to my cold and weary bones.
Believe me, I’d been cold before, but never like this.
She came close.
She read and remembered my face.
‘This man was with him,’ she announced.
I floundered like a fish in the sand, seeking a hiding place,
Back, back, back to the dark, to the depths.   
‘Woman, I don’t know him.’ I stammered.  
‘I don’t know him.
I don’t know him!’
…not any more.
I don’t recognise you any more. 

Willingly, you’d allowed them to arrest you
and carry you off like a common criminal.  
You didn’t hold your ground or put up a fight
like I thought you would,
like I thought you should.
You mustn’t be the Messiah, not really.
I must have been wrong.
You weren’t chosen by God, just cursed.
Forsaken, like the rest of us.
The forgotten children of Israel.
Disgraced and dispossessed.
I fled, as the darkness gave way to the morning light.
The rooster crowed and filled me with fright.
You were right.
You know me. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Te Tiriti O Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi has caused many tears and much grief. Yet Te Tiriti O Waitangi is also a cause for gratitude and great hope. Here as a founding document of our nation, we have a covenant agreement that speaks of a strong desire for unity with one another and with our God. This is the cry, the call, and the challenge inherent in the voice of our ancestors. Their voice comes to us from days of old when our nation came to birth. 

There is another voice that comes to us which is yet older still, the voice of God, the Ancient of Days. Our ancestors echo God’s voice who calls us all to unity through the commitment of a covenant relationship. God says, ‘I will take you as my own people and I will be your God’ (Ex 6:7). That sounds like marriage vows to me – a covenant, a promise, a treaty.

I have been to four weddings this summer. My friend Cindy and I wrote a song for one of them:

Here we stand before you Lord
surrendering to your call. 
Your faithfulness we will declare
throughout this life that we now share.
Hallelujah, hallelujah/

You, our God, have made us one.
Forever we are bound in your love.
We give to you our lives of praise
bringing glory to your name. 

When we face great loss and grief
with heavy hearts and tear stained cheek's
O God, our help, to you we'll cling. 
Held by mercy, we will sing. 
Hallelujah, hallelujah

You, our God, have made us one...

As we follow you, Jesus
may your grace be at work in us. 
By your Spirit and your word
we will proclaim the truth we've heard. 
Hallelujah, hallelujah. 

You, our God, have made us one...  

May we as a nation by bound together in love and unity, remaining faithful to our covenant promises. Let us lift our voices as we join with our ancestors in the cry, the call, and the challenge to live in unity with God and with one another.

Monday, 7 March 2016


A reflection on the Wilderness Generation.

I am Rebekah. I am ten years old, the eldest of eight children.

When I was seven I began working in the fields. Each day before dawn I would be woken with the gentle calling of my name, ‘Rebekah.’ I would slip on my tunic and step into my sandals while the younger children stirred. I’d emerge to find my mother and the other women preparing breakfast for the field workers. The men who built with brick and mortar in Pithom and Rameses had long since left.

That early morning meal was my favourite time of the day. The smell of baked bread and boiled eggs made my belly rumble before I even had time to wipe the sleep from my eyes.

The air was cool and fresh.We spoke to one another in hushed tones, and laughed as silently as we could so as to not disturb those who slept. Before long the babies would be up calling, ‘Amma! Amma!’ and the ladies would be comforting one child while another clung to their legs.

It’s been that way for three years, and now there are three more of us in my family: another girl and two more boys. Every day, except the Sabbath, I walk to the fields outside Goshen with my aunts and older cousins. We talk all the way there. They tell us stories about what Egypt used to be like, about Joseph and Jacobs other sons and how they’d come from Canaan because of the famine, about Abraham and God’s promise to him that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky and how that certainly seems to be the case because the children of Israel keep growing and growing and growing and growing.

But why are there all these people and yet we have no place of our own, no place to call home?

It’s hot out in the fields and I long for the cool, dark rooms of our house. My legs burn as I bend low to pull the weeds from among the wheat. My muscles strain and the skin on my hands is raw and enflamed. As I work beneath the beat of the sun the anger in me begins to smoulder; a small fire of frustration.

‘Pharaoh,’ I curse under my breath. He forces us to work, and what’s worse is he is trying to control us like we are cattle. He gave a decree to kill off our baby boys. My brothers are safe for now, but for how long?

How long?
How long will my people be enslaved?
How long will we be oppressed?
How long will our men be beaten and abused while they build cities for this slave-driving empire?
How long, O Lord? Have you seen what it happening to us? Have you heard us as we cry out to you, ‘come and save us! Come and deliver us!’?
Are you really more powerful than Pharaoh? Are you really willing to redeem your people?

I hope so! Because, if you can’t, or won’t, I don’t know what we will do. God, we need you! Will you send someone to save us?


I am Rebekah. When I was twenty years old something strange and wonderful began. It started when Moses – one of our own – returned home. He was a Levite babe who’d been laid in a papyrus basket and place in the Nile – that fertile and dreadful river, and found by none other than Pharaoh’s daughter. The same Pharaoh who’d forced us into hard labour.

Rumour has it that Moses fled to the wilderness and met God. Filled with the fear of the Lord he returned to Pharaoh’s court and declared, ‘let my people go!’ It wasn’t that easy though. Pharaoh said no. We were forced to work harder and the beatings were harsher than ever before. Such trouble was brought on us!

Moses insisted that God would deliver us from our yoke of slavery and bring us to the land he swore to Abraham. But we didn’t believe him. We were bruised and abused. We were bitter. We’d become like the master we were bonded to. (It took too long to shake those chains.) For as long as I could remember we had been crying out to God to keep his covenant, to come to our rescue. We pleaded with God to hear us, and when God finally spoke we could not fathom it.

There were the plagues, ten of them in total, ending with the death of the first born – the most destructive of all. I will never forget the sound of those who keened and grieved: the awful wail of lament.

And then we left: the great exodus. I was in a daze. We’d done what Moses had asked. We slaughtered a lamb and smeared its blood on the door posts of our houses. We ate the roast meat and bread without yeast like we were on the run – cloak, belt, sandals, staff. We ate in haste.

We left in haste, carrying what we could down the long desert road toward the Red Sea. The Lord led us: a pillar of cloud by day to guide us, a pillar of fire by night to give us light and illuminate the way. One night, encamped by the sea, we heard the Egyptian stampede, the pounding steps as death rushed towards us.

I remember clamouring for my children and holding them close and wondering what I had done. I hadn’t brought them here to die in the desert like an injured animal. I should’ve stayed and served the Egyptians. I would have died inside but at least my children would have survived. I closed my eyes.

Moses stood and said, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” He stretched out his hand over the sea and there began a strong wind from the east. The waters were divided: we walked through  without getting wet. The Egyptian army was swallowed into the sea and we were safe on the other side. God had truly delivered us!

We went into the desert, and our cry for deliverance became a grumble. We were hungry and there was nothing to eat. We were thirsty and there was nothing to drink. ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt?’ we grumbled, ‘to make us and our children and our livestock die of thirst? If only we had died by the Lords hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve us to death.’

We’d seen and experienced the mighty hand of God. We knew the miraculous power of the Lord Almighty. But this place was nothing like the land we had been promised. Yes, God had delivered us, but what was God doing, giving us a leader like this? Someone to lead us to our death?

And so we are still here in this wasteland, this wilderness, with no place to call home. We came close once, right to the edge of Canaan, our ancestral home, the land where we belong. But we couldn’t go in. We were too scared. It was safer in Egypt. We were safe when we were slaves, we didn’t know what it meant to be saved.


I am Rebekah. Now I am fifty years old. Fifty years, five children, a few handfuls of grandchildren. Their childhood is so different from mine. They are free to wander and roam. They are forced to wander and roam. Every few months we pack up the tents and the tabernacle and move on. It’s been that way for thirty years.

When we walk through the wilderness I am reminded of the exodus from Egypt when we first loaded the carts and drove the cattle. Now there is no hurry or haste. My bones are older and my body does not move at the same pace. Now we walk and we wait and we remember. We remember the covenant God made with our ancestor Abraham and we remember our unfaithfulness. We remember the Passover and how God rescued us from oppression. We remember our rebellion and our recalcitrance. We remember all too well that we were the ones who reneged.

Yet, strangely, God has remained faithful. Or perhaps it’s not so strange after all. Our God is the great I Am. Our God’s very name means, ‘I am who I am. I will be who I will be.’ Our God is faithful and true. Yahweh keeps his promise. Yahweh keeps his word. Yahweh is with us in the wilderness. Even here, in the emptiness of it all, we are not alone, we are not abandoned.

God has heard our cry, has come to rescue us and we will remember his faithfulness. Our people will enter the land that has been promised to us, just not this generation. The wilderness is our home; the wilderness is where we belong. But our descendants won’t dwell in the desert forever.

I will. I will die out here. One day I will draw my last breath from this warm desert wind, my body will become a part of the earth beneath me, and I will be one with the wilderness where I have spent most of my life. I will never set foot in the Promised Land. I will never set my eyes on the green fields and foothills. I will never hear the gush of the sweet water springs or the sound of the cedars during a gust of wind. I will never taste the milk and honey I have heard of and hoped for. I have forgotten their sensation and have now only the words.

But my death, and the death of my generation, will be a kind of redemption that leads to a new way of life. One day my children, our children, Israel’s children, will be set free to romp and roam in a land that they can call home. Once again, God will deliver his people. Our God truly is the one who saves.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015


Jesus was a refugee. Not long after he was born his parents were forced to flee to Egypt because Israel was no longer a safe place to be – it hadn’t been for a while. There were kings and rulers vying for control and the people were caught in the crossfire. The Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, called for a census of the entire Roman world so he could keep track of all those under his rule and keep them under his thumb. The King over the Jews, Herod the Great, called for nationwide infanticide so he could eliminate any potential usurper and protect his position on the throne. There was trouble, all kinds of trouble.

It is understandable that Mary and Joseph fled. A person would do almost anything to protect their family. What is strange, however, is where they found refuge. It wasn’t the first time the descendants of Israel had sought shelter among the Egyptians. Thousands of years before there had been a severe drought and the Israelites made Egypt their home; the land was fertile and the cities were safe. Yet, within a few generations the Israelites were slaves, living lives of submission. Why would Mary and Joseph return to the place where their forebears were oppressed? Why seek asylum in Egypt of all places, among enemies and adversaries? Perhaps it is safer to be a foreigner in a strange land than to remain amidst the conflict of your own kin. 

Imagine the fear, the insecurity, the sense of dread that grips your diaphragm like you’re winded all the time. How can people live like that?! God knows! Yet, witness the stamina and the fortitude of the family. Such courage! Such determination! Such resolve!

This story of a refugee family from the Middle East during a time of great social, political and religious turbulence is not so foreign to us. Despite the angels and the stars and the strangeness of it all, the Christmas story is no fairytale. Into our world of instability and unrest God has come. The stories of our violence and our vulnerability are not foreign to God. Jesus knows our need, Jesus experiences our struggle. In Jesus there is true peace amidst turmoil, deep joy during great suffering, pervasive love among enemies, and hope; pure, honest, earnest hope.

Do not be afraid, there is good news that will bring great joy to all people: God is with us, God will restore us.