Post-Salvation Bittersweet Blues

March 12, 2018


On the other side of salvation

when the sea has closed over the heads

of your enemies

and their war machines

when their  grasp

on your slave soul

is undone

and their last gasp

of oppression

is gone –

there you are

in wilderness

wild and free

hungry and thirsty

in unknown territory

lost and looking for home.

salvation isn’t enough:

you’ll need a sustaining spring.

On the other side

of salvation,

the waters can be bitter

hidden and hard.

On the other side

of salvation

you will still need your staff

a solid stick, something to remind you

of the signs and wonders

that convinced you

and gave you courage

to confront the captors

And you’ll need its powers for prodding change,

like it did

serpents from wood

blood from water

stone from pharoah’s heart

these you’ve seen.

Now can the stick

that lies at you feet

poke bitter water

and pour forth sweet?


Exodus 15 


22 Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness 

of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 

25 He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”


How does this work again?

February 24, 2018

they often take the time to tell

me that I should be bound for hell

but that you suffered in my place

and I am free  and all is grace

but if you were pierced instead of me

then what can all this pained life be?


they preach profoundly all again

that peace is made from your dark pain

they proud declare your death atones

so we put down our judgement stones

but if you were violenced for our strife

then what means all this warring life?


they have oft this promise made

that all my devil’s debt is paid

your body bruised an offering stands

and we can come with empty hands

but if you were slaughtered in our stead

why are children trafficked and dead?


O God of wounds the story goes

that you took all our griefs and woes

they make each dogma point in fact

the substitution was exact

but though you have our horrors borne

our pained heart’s path is freshly worn


they sing such hymns – Amazing Grace!

yet tell me that you took my place

all sin is vanquished; all is done!

but if you have death’s victory won

why are we so often stunned

by schools so bloodied; children gunned?


My God


Slave trader ledger 1844-54

my God



why have you


or was our


accounting ledger



The suffering God makes no cheap deal


there’s no exchange – our woes are real

brutality still has its tools


taken up by hands of fools

And Grace sings no escapist myth

God’s life pours love in suffering with

and will not let there be quick wins


and easy wiping over sins

no cover ups, no never tell

false rightness can go straight to hell

Can  all in  all be reconciled –

evil despot, slaughtered child?


when all confess all out all told

all kneeled all equaled all one pure gold

all things in God to fullness come

all known, all loved, all whole – shalom.





February 13, 2018

my legs dangle over the edge

here I sit

right out on the precipice

the edge of uncertainty

my mind dangles over the edge

the edge of uncertainty

I must have walked out here

but i don’t remember

doing it

how did I do that?

I guess I was so distracted by the terror

so now sitting here

on the edge

staring into thin clear air

that goes on and on and on

right out to a distant horizon

where the world does not so much end

but melts or fades

or – so I’ve heard – merely turns a gentle curve

right out on the distant horizon

and right up through stratospheres beyond

and down

but best not look down

this is the edge

the edge of uncertainty

don’t look down

because down is certain

down there

– you could go there

but it’s certain.


death is certain.

don’t look down

down there is death

and death is certain


what you want

is uncertain

what you want, woman –



all of life is uncertain



the uncertain life of faith

the uncertain life of humility

death is certain

but it is hubris

you want life

you want this uncertain view

this long distant open whatever

the whatever of hope

the uncertain of hope

the uncertain of life

so don’t look down

you know what’s down there anyhow

look out

look straight out

straight in front of you

into the clear

straight into you know not what

into uncertain

straight into the face of faith

or is it a gentle curve away?

I’m not certain.


is love still within our reach?

September 18, 2017


stretching me

beyond me

beyond my limits

over the edge

beyond my control

because that is where

love happens.

not in the safe comfortable space

of the heart’s


the heart’s


but out

upon the cliff face

hanging by a rope

reaching out a hand

swinging past and missing

doubling back and trying again

grasping the hand

when the other won’t let go

pulling you face in

to rock

and face and fear


we are suspension

rope and fear

and love

in tension



September 14, 2017

[a dedication of one small vote in the postal survey on the legalisation of same-sex marriage]


dedicated to all the conservative christians of the past and present (and I hope no more in the future)
– who were told to pray away the gay;

– to get (straight) married on the “promise” that God would honour this with the “godly [read:hetero] desires;

– who God has failed to ‘heal’ or ‘make right’ as a God so interested and invested in heterosexuality, complementarity and salvation ought to.

– who gave their straight partners intimacy whilst their own most intimate longings remained unmet – and often even unnamed; 

– who were subjected to endless prayer ministry, healing prayers and exorcisms to be rid of their errant same sex attraction but to no avail; 

– those who lived quiet lives of lonely longing in enforced celibacy;

– those partners who lived with the secret of a gay spouse enduring their own share of suffering under the church’s twisted and unfulfilled promises;

– those who courageously have found strength for living forwards, for calling the pseudo-theological bullshit and have forfeited security, reputation and friendship

– those whose partners have broken free but have left ruptures of family and identity and resources and hearts in doing so.

dedicated to all of the children whose most loved and significant adults have been held up as ‘disgusting’ in cowardly anonymous and vitriolic youtube rants;
– whose trust and security and wellbeing lies in the bonds of two people whose very being is held open to public derision and judgement.

– whose world is shaped by an heteronormative internet and saturated with messages that call them to evaluate their worth by superficial conventions of body and fashion that is accessible and relevant to only a very small number of people anywhere on the planet.

– whose family system has been vilified and whose educational context has become a political point-scoring field, while they – actual real children – remain marginalised and voiceless.


dedicated to all of those people for whom the Bible is somehow so important,
– but who don’t know how to read the gifts of paragraphs around more than one verse from Leviticus 19 or three verses from Romans 1 or how to read the whole of Luke 7,

– and who will, despite the deep wisdom the larger conversations of scripture might hold for them, will continue to shake their heads in fear, and point their fingers in judgement and harden their hearts in ignorance, in a world in which marriage between same sex couples is already internationally a very real thing.


and to those whose lives are even more unspeakably complicated, hidden, unacceptable, unliveable whose pain now and onwards is beyond imagining…


one small ‘yes’ is all I have tonight. but it is yours dear ones.


rules of engagement

September 8, 2017
The High Court has upheld the legality of Government appropriation of funding for a postal survey of the Australian public on the matter of same sex marriage,
So here it comes – an open slather propaganda war.
put your brains in a jar on the shelf – they won’t be appealed to for a while.
put your hearts in a box under the bed – safe and out of the line of fire.
stuff your ears with beeswax and tie your principles to the mast and be not swayed by any siren’s song.
put all you know of grace in mothballs – this is about law, about winning, about right.
raise your flag; load your guns; dig in; sandbag your trenches.
whatever you do, don’t think of the ‘other side’ as having human skin or personhood
think of others only as a vote – not a mind, not a life, never as a loved or loving creature of the Most High God
Only speak of ‘the Yes/No campaign’
Use the language of ‘their agenda’
think strategy and advantage
don’t give any ground
listen to everything as an argument
maintain suspicion
presume malice
hear hatred
keep smug
escalate your righteous indignation
allow no middle
view everyone as ally or enemy
shoot all who venture into no man’s land
call the red cross
start the body count
It used to be said
there are only two feelings:
love and fear
but now
there are only two options
yes and no

Marriage Manifestos

August 25, 2017

Luther, Martin

Suddenly this week it has become ‘public manifesto week’ for christian leaders, large high profile churches and organisations. As the plebiscite on the legalisation of same sex marriage looms, and debate rages, we have seen a spate of ‘official position’ releases.
Brian Houston, Dale Stephenson, Simon Holt, Baptist Union of NSW-ACT, St Hilary’s Network, to name only a few. Some individual pastors of less high profile congregations have taken up this task in the absence of a denominational statement.
Even where public manifestos have been delivered, there have been cries from the trenches for even more specific directives. Can we believe Brian Houston didn’t communicate a ‘No’ preference strongly enough? – and yet I have seen this complaint – even of him!
This rash of manifesto statements indicates a thirst among parts of the Christian community for deliberative public declarations. Declarations,
not that Jesus is the Risen Lord of the cosmos,
nor that God’s reconciling work through the cross demolishes all claims to dividing walls constraining ethnicity, gender, class – even death its very self
nor that God’s call to humans is to love the creator and sustainer source of the cosmos with our whole being – heart mind body soul – making it impossible to restrain our love for any of God’s creation – neighbour or enemy.
No – the thirst for public manifesto declarations is for moral judgements on behaviour, for proclaiming cultural norms, for setting boundaries on the scope of human experience that will be tolerated by christian communities.
What does this tell us, coming as thickly from protestant camps, 500 years into a reformation which blew the lid off a christendom culture of making our work, our practice, our claims to morality and righteousness criteria for our relationship with God – instead reforming our faith to be utterly christo-centric, christ initiated, christ dependent.
And let’s remember – and perhaps especially those of you who are married, sexually-active clergy, remember this thankfullly – that we are 500 years on from a reformation that smashed a key sexual cultural norm – and removed the requirement of celibacy for ministering persons.
THAT was a redefining marriage moment for the christian faith, as married domestic sexual intimate procreative life was affirmed as congruent with the vocation of ministry. In the previous 1000 years, departing from New Testament norms (a bishop being the husband of one wife) marriage had come to be regarded as a hindrance to fulfilling a serving vocation in the church. The radical exclusion of sexually intimate partnering seemed to be a more ideal context for cultivating the life of purity.
For some this celibacy may have been wonderful gift of freedom. Our sense though, from the many cases of moral failure, by the celibate priesthood, this ‘gift’ was a burden that bent many out of shape.
We best think carefully as protestant christians about this redefinition of marriage, and the valuing of sexual identity as undetachable from human vocation, lest we bend a different group out of shape with denial.
The radical change in the emerging reformation movement valued the domestic life of the minister, and, let’s be honest, functioning participative sexual life of the minister. Because reformed faith affirms that communities of faith are made of sexual humans, and are best led by the spirit of God who made sexual humanity. Not by a de-sexualised class of priests.
The outcome of the plebiscite is unlikely to change very much very quickly, especially in conservative christian communities, which routinely, inattentively exclude persons of LGBTIQ identity. Regardless of the outcome legally, most christian communities who want to will practice the easy subliminal discrimination that currently exists, as well as the more overt forms. The plebiscite may lead to a change in the legal status of some gay relationships. It will not change the practices of communities that still wish to exclude from ministry or fellowship.
Still, christian communities will now need to live under the manifesto banners that they have hoisted up in this frenzied, pressured time. I wonder if they will seem so wise in 5 years – when the pastor’s daughter comes to lunch with her girlfriend; when the chairperson of elders leaves his 30 year marriage and comes out; when the best and brightest of your young adults, heading for bible college and ordination suicides, unable to face the interrogations of his sexuality…
I ask myself why it is so important to have public statements on THIS one particular issue. Why must this one consume our passion and identity as a community? Gluttons, the perpetually angry, investors in weapons and war-making business, exploiters of cheap overseas labour, tax dodgers – all of these sinners are readily welcomed in our faith community midst.
What is at stake for us?
forget the slippery slope – no one is going to choose to be gay who isn’t already just because they now might be able to get married.
forget the freedom of religion – marriage as we know it is a state matter, not a religious one. You can create whatever religious solemnisations alongside a state legal marriage.
forget the LGBTIQ ‘Agenda’ – the biological reality is that homosexual orientation has always represented a relatively small percentage of the population. More people don’t become gay through an extension of marriage. More people who have been shamed into hiding their gay identity, may perhaps be released to own their identity safely and unapologetically – though I fear that kind of cultural change will be slow, and there are still many hard times ahead for LBGTIQ people.
forget the ‘redefinition’ of ‘traditional’ marriage.
there was no federal marriage law until 1961 in Australia. Until 1942 the legal minimum age for marriage was 12 for girls and 14 for boys – hardly marriage between a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ – and it was Tasmania that first raised it by two years, other states following in the subsequent decade. Our definition of marriage has shifted culturally, with sociological changes, and will continue to do so. It is the role of the law to keep up with protecting its citizens, not dehumanising them.
so – what is at stake? for you and me personally. For the actual community that I am a part of – not some imaginary hypothetical church, but the named known straight, single, married, gay, trans, intersex, divorced, fertile, infertile, childless by choice, disabled, unstable, homeless, cashed up-propertied, mad, educated, immigrant, stateless, temporary visa-ed, young, growing, developmentally delayed, old, declining collection of humans I live life with under the banner of reconciling, love-that-is-death-defying, grace?
what is at stake for us?
What is at stake as we gather to seek to live lives that honestly address our whole being before God – simul iustus et peccator;
All of the manifesto statements seem unhelpful to me. Even those which begin with affirmations of homosexual identity, restate the exclusive attestation of marriage between man and woman as the only context for sexual expression.
Dare I have a manifesto for even myself? I dare not speak for others. But surely, she of such passionate convictions must have some stand to take. Alright then. Manifesto for me.
here I stand, saint and sinner both.
here I stand, struggling lover of both this holy gracious God, and this broken human man.
here I stand with every person ever, with human Jesus drawing in the dust on one side and holy holders of Law with ready rocks in their hands on the other.
here I stand made in the image of God and bent out of shape by culture, abuse, my own choices.
here I stand legally claimless, but claimed by grace.