Questions about bridegrooms and harsh managers… (pondering Matthew 25)

Having read Nadia Boltz-Webbers amazing sermon on Matthew 25: 1-13 on the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, a friend of mine came up with more questions, and that really got me thinking, so bringing a hermeneutic of suspicion to the text I question the power of the bridegroom and the harsh manager in the parable that followed. They had the power, and in their power they excluded those who were in need of oil and compassion.

This is my thinking:

The blind see,

the deaf hear,

the lame walk,

the prisoners are freed,

and the kingdom of God is made open for all,

who is judged then,

maybe it is those who have excluded,

the harsh manager who excluded his fearful servant,

the mean bridegroom who did not open the door

to the bridesmaids judged foolish,

when Jesus looks over the crowds at the end of time

will he include the fearful servant, and the foolish bridesmaids?

Is he not more likely to exclude those who excluded them?


So why was the harsh manager so harsh?

He expected much of his servants, and certainly the fearful servant

was concerned about punishment ?

Yet for years we have been told that the harsh manager is a God figure,

rewarding the shrewd and casting out the fearful…

This is not the God I have come to know…


And what about the bridegroom, refusing to open the door to the foolish bridesmaids,

ignoring their request to be admitted,

surely these were his friends,

or surely his brides friends?


Could it be that this manager and this bridegroom are not God/ Christ figures at all,

but false Messiahs welcoming those who look after themselves.

The “wise” bridesmaids were mean, they could have shared their oil or their light,

the harsh manager could have recognised his servants fear…

maybe we are being called to recognise this

in the light of the ministry of the one who went to the margins and to the edges,

light could be shared and compassion could be shown.


Yes we need to be ready,

but that includes being ready to spot the false Messiahs bearing false promises

For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.  (Ch 24)…

a smouldering wick won’t be put out,

a bruised reed will not be broken…

who is here to help the servant and the bridesmaids,

with a call to go to the lowest and the least,

in the kin(g)dom where the first shall be last and the last first,

perhaps Jesus is calling us to see the excluded and to go to them.

to see him in his need in them,

and to serve as he would serve,

not for our own gain, but simply because in Christ that is who we are!


For as Jesus taught in the last paragraph of Matthew 25:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these

brothers and sisters of mine,

you did for me.”

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Into the desert…. (Spirit and Empire)

Driven or led,

compelled or accompanied,

he entered the desert for forty days,

forty days and forty nights,

praying and fasting,

with the wild animals

he turned his face to God…


His stomach rumbled….

Turn the stones to bread,

fresh bread, warm…

surely you can smell it,

the voice taunted him, a whisper at first,

then growing more insistent..

how wonderful that would be,

you need never be hungry again,

you could feed the world, and all would know you

Lord and Messiah…


Stand firm, hold fast,

the Spirit countered,

God will sustain you,

do not be afraid,

there’s more to life than bread….


there’s more to life than bread he repeated,

and, we cannot live on bread alone


for a while it was quiet

days went by,

he grew in stature,

he knew who he was and whose he was…


well said the voice,

if you know who you are and whose you are

test it out,

suddenly he was standing on the highest point of the temple

crowds were milling below him…

what a stir there would be

if angels bore him safely to the ground…

he would be heralded,

Messiah and Lord,

the crowds would surely bow in wonder,

the city would be awed to silence,

and the Roman oppressors would quake in their boots….


You are not here to be lauded,

the Spirit countered again,

you are here to serve,

to seek the lost,

to heal the broken,

to free the captives…

the blind will se,

the lame will walk,

and ALL will know that

the love of God is FOR THEM!



I will not test my God he said,

I will not put him to the test,

his voice was firm and strong…

I am his,

and he is mine…


He returned to prayer,

again it was quiet,

and days went by


The suddenly it was as if he woke from a dream,

he found himself on a mountain top,

this time the tempter stood next to him,

arm thrown around his shoulder,

as if they were friends,

but, the smirk on his face betrayed him

look he said, gesturing to the vista that lay below,

all this can be yours,

these cities and towns,

this empire,

yours to reign over and rule….


I am wealth, I am power,

worship me!!!


he looked long and hard…


Once again the Spirit spoke,

the kin(g)dom of God

is not like the kingdoms of this world,

the kin(g)dom of God,

means freedom for all,

it is ever expanding,

ever including,

in time and place it has no boundaries…


In the kin(g)dom of God

the first shall be last,

and the last shall be first,

the little children shall be gathered,

swords will be turned to ploughshares

and the lion will lie down with the lamb…

peace love, joy and hope will be its signs.

and you will show the way…


As he looked his vision expanded,

he saw the crowds,

sheep without a shepherd,

and his heart broke, and filled with love for them…


I will not worship you! He said to his tempter!

Speaking quietly, but with such power,

that the tempter shuddered and stepped back.


I know who I am and whose I am,

my way is the way of the servant.

and I will take a bowl and towel and wash the feet of all

who choose to walk my way..


I worship God alone!


The tempter was overcome with rage,

for a moment he burned brightly as a flame,

all hot and glowing,

then the Spirits breath extinguished him,

with all his hate and rage,

and he withdrew…


The Jesus sighed a deep sigh,

the angels soon surrounded him,

bringing food, water and encouragement…


As he stood and left the desert he knew

this ending was only the beginning,

he would walk the path set out for him,

he would seek the lost,

he would heal the broken,

he would free the captives,

the deaf would hear,

the blind would see,

the lame would walk,

and to ALL he would show the love of God,

and none would be excluded…


The Spirit was in him,

flowing through him,

and he was not alone…

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Out of sorts…

Loving God,

today I feel out of sorts,

off balance,

and tired,

I am very tired,

I kept myself awake last night

worrying small things

out of proportion,

and struggling with mountains of despair,

so I hope you don’t mind

if today I take a step back

and choose to look after myself,

to be kind to myself,

of course when I look at the life of Jesus

I know you don’t mind,

for he took time out to pray,

time to be,

time to rest and recentre,

time to connect again and again

with the unforced rhythms of grace,

so here I am weary and burdened,

tripping myself up,

second guessing,


and doubting my worth…


so I am choosing rest,

that I might find life,

and love and joy

once again….

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The space between us…

I will break bread with you,

I broke bread with you,

for that is the way of grace,

though I suspect you would deny me it

were the tables turned,

and I wonder if you would even offer me crumbs?


Your words cut me and bruised me.

your insistence on your own righteousness,

your Bible-believing ways,

your condemnation of my very being.

My reading of the Bible is somewhat different to yours,

so, why did you come to the table?


Why did you choose to receive from a woman,

a queer woman? ( you may be unaware of that last part).

Was it an openness to grace, to the offer of

an open table where none are excluded?

Was it the reminder that the Pharisees ticked many boxes

but were hard hearted and mean?

Or was it habit,

you came because you have always come?


Know this though,

your words wounded,

your judgement bruised,

your righteousness condemned me…


I hope I chose to take the towel,

for I know who I am,

and whose I am,

then I broke bread and offered it,

and you received…


still I was shaking

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Dear God,

Dear God,

I find it hard these days to know what to call you,

Mother Father, Holy parent

Spirit, guide, or spirit-guide

deep internal knowing,

love, oh I mean Love, with a capital L,

ground and source of all being,

knowable but unknowable,

deep mystery,

holder of all things,

all in all,

God, is not a big enough word…

and words are important,

because I watch peoples faces when I say God,

some of them close down,

and with good reason,

what they’ve been taught about you

is restrictive at best,

you are a holy dictator bent on punishement,

probably disapproving of all we do or say,

ready with thunderbolt in hand to ponce on the slightest mis-step!


I was once fearful of you,

waiting for punishment,

filled with shame and guilt,

wracked by the sense of my own inadequacy,

and in my darker moments I still am,

I wait with bated breath for the truth to be made plain,

I am not worthy of your attention,

and probably bound for hell…

thank goodness you have now shown me that hell does not exist!


So, dear God,

will you help me to become really free,

to be more fully human like Jesus was,

embracing life in light and shadow,

showing us how to be whole,

not demanding a false perfection from us,

will you help me to use names for you that will help rather than hinder people,

so forgive me if I rarely name you Lord,

and hesitate to speak in triumphant tones,

but I will call you LOVE, I will call you divine parent,

creator, and whatever comes to mind

as I seek to connect myself and others to the wonder of your presence….

and help me I pray to know myself

embraced, by the one who will not let me go..

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Shadow work…

I walked today,

through a field of memories,

collecting fragments of lost promises,

and broken dreams,

seeking out shards of hope,

searching the darkened corners,

exploring the holes

where shame still lies weeping….

these memories are of different ages,

some recent,

others older,

but all have left wounds and scars,

and I live with them,

I guess we all do,

some are griefs,

and deep laments,

avoidable, and unavoidable

they have made me who I am…


I can only go back to visit,

there is nothing I can change

no matter how much I might long to,

each one is a death of sorts,

even the celebrations

cannot be changed or reversed,

and there are these happier pictures of course,

but it’s not them that haunt me,

not them that turn up at midnight

filling my dreams as uninvited intruders,

I cannot push them away,

or drown them out,

( believe me I have tried),

so I have decided to invite them in,

to welcome them with compassion,

to hear their cries,

I meant no harm

is a familiar refrain,

but circumstances conspired,

and the wounds and scars are real

the only way then, is to choose to heal together…

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I should be like….

Oh they run every day,

I should be like that,

they swim,

and they swim outdoors,

I should be like that,

they do yoga,

the meditate,

they paint beautiful scenes…

I should be like that,

if I could be like that,

maybe I will learn,

they’ve lost 3 stone,

I should definitely be like that,

they are so careful with the environment,

reusing, reducing, recycling,

I should be like that..

I could live better, work better,

move better, be better,

I should be…..


In the midst of the “shoulds ” I stop….

I stop them becoming oughts ( for they are close),

and I remember that


I am not them, or them, or any of the ones I so admire…

I do my daily round of tai-chi, and I walk as much as I can,

I swim, though not regularly now,

I love photography,

I love the sea,

and I paint abstracts

sometimes with gold leaf,

it is okay to be me!


and yes there are things I would like to do,

but I pray that these would be desires,

not oughts or shoulds,

I am free, just to be me!

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5 years….a step forward….

5 years,

but a step forward,

5 years to be debated,

to be put under the theological microscope,

to be disceted,



oh but blessed, sort of…

5 years,

in 5 years my infant grandchild will be at school,

in 5 years I may well have moved home,

developed an unforeseen illness,

in 5 years the world may have changed,

and changed again…

5 years,

how can this be a step forward?


Kick us into the long grass,

we might give up

we might go away,

kick us into the long grass,

we might become irrelevant,

or maybe choose not to be gay…


Of course I speak from a different space,

a different place,

I don’t rely upon you for my living,

but my friends do,

and for them I weep….

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Impostor syndrome…

Hidden for many years,

closeted, I stretch my arms,

flex my legs and wonder,

am I an imposter in my ow skin?

I own my fullness now,

but still a voice stirs within,

impostor it cries,

you are an impostor in your own skin,

how could you stay so hidden,

how could you hide for so long????

I have explanations,

I have been one who has hidden from many things,

felt the crushing weight of shame

too often,

declared myself





but now I stretch my arms, and

flex my legs,

and in my heart I try to fill the voids

left by being un-everything…

I am not an impostor in my own skin,

but I am new-born,


a little shaky on my legs,

and while I stretch my arms

there is still space for them to fill,

but, I am not an impostor in my own skin,

I have a voice, at last, and I will use it,

I am not unlovable,

I am not unacceptable,

I am not underserving,

or, unworthy!

I am fearfully and wonderfully made,

and I stand with my sisters, my brothers, my siblings and others…

we are here, and we will not be ashamed!

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Tooth and claw- (Syria and Synod)

I’m listening to the news,

in Turkey, in Syria,

people weeping, people waiting,

clothes, food, water, warmth,

are all in short supply,

a photo is described,

a father vainly clutching the hand

of his dead daughter, hope is gone,

but he cannot let her go….

but hope sparks,

a baby has been born under the rubble,

and is rescued, no news of the mother……..

people weeping, people waiting,

clothes, food, water, warmth

all all in short supply….

humanity here is raw,

life is tooth and claw,

a struggle to survive….


more news follows,

across the world in London

the General Synod of the Church of England sits

in more opulent surroundings,

there is no shortage here, no lack

of clothes, food, water, and the temperature is fine…

but is there warmth?

Or are hackles raised and swords drawn

as the members sit and wait

for the afternoon debate, the question of blessing

the seemingly un-bless-able….

for some, and

humanity here is raw,

life is tooth and claw,

a struggle to survive….

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