Gospel Conversations

Exploring the weekly Gospel

 As a new initiative in 2021, the Diocesan Ministry Educator is engaging with panels of biblical thinkers in conversations about forthcoming Gospel readings.

These are free-flowing conversations, with the aim of floating and teasing out ideas and responses to the weekly passage,
not as an academic exercise but as a creative dance with the text and the Spirit who enlivens the text for us. We hope they will spark some ideas for those who are preparing sermons, but also that they will be used by people to think about the Sunday readings during the week.

The Conversations will continue in Lent 2022

Turn your sound up and make sure you view the videos in full screen…


Our final Gospel Conversation until Lent begins! We decided to do something special this week as we join in the excitement and joy of Christmas. We threw it open to anyone who has been a part of the Gospel Conversations this year to join us if they were available in this increasingly busy time. The result was a slightly chaotic but joyful and varied sharing of what the challenges, good news and “so what’s” of the story of Christmas might be.

We’re almost there! The last Sunday before Christmas, and we are with Mary as she seeks out her cousin Elizabeth, who, like her, was experiencing an unusual pregnancy. Mary’s song of praise is as exhilarating and challenging 2000 years after it was sung as it must have been then. Where did these words come from? What was it like for Mary experiencing these miracles? For Elizabeth? For John, still in Elizabeth’s womb? What does this whole passage tell us today? This week Michael is joined by Jerry Morris, zooming in from Wisconsin; Mosgiel-based John Franklin, and (on her first appearance) Karen Hoffman from beautiful Kurow.

John the Baptist lays down his uncompromising demands on those who come to hear him, and points towards the promise of another to come. Rose Scott (on her first visit) joins Michael, David Tombs and Richard Johnson, each bringing their varied life experiences to the discussion of this Lukan passage. There are plenty of challenges here. Where is the good news, and where do we find practical guidance for our lives in the middle of talk of tunics, unquenchable fire and vipers?

Enter John the Baptist! Preparing the way for Jesus, preaching in the wilderness, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of one who will point towards a time when all people will know the salvation of God. A wonderful Gospel this week, and Michael is joined by Alec Clark, Judy Ringland and Anne van Gend to unpack it together.

The Apocalyptic gospel passages continue this week, and Bishop Kelvin, Damon and Peg engage in an energised discussion about them, bravely tackling their strangeness – and yet their strange familiarity. “Wars and rumours of wars”, natural disasters, and threats to safety have always been with us. Together with Michael the team discuss what the Gospel can tell us of life and hope and love in the face of such things – even in the face of a pandemic.

When Jesus resisted those who would make him king, why do we have a Sunday celebrating “Christ the King”? Join Michael as he talks with Bishop Steve, Fiona Hammond and David Wright about the different sort of kingship and different sort of King we follow.

Michael describes this week’s gospel as “a prickly little scripture,” and it is a difficult one. As we approach Advent, we begin Mark’s “Little Apocalypse”: Jesus’ predictions of the destruction of the Temple and other tragedies. What do the rumours of disaster 2000 years ago tell us about maintaining hope and avoiding despair and apathy in the face of our own crises? We are fortunate to be joined by Bishop Cam Venables from the Western Region of the Diocese of Brisbane this week, together with our own Gillian Townsley and Trish Franklin. Together with Michael they tease out these and other questions to help us tackle what is, to us, a very strange section of the Gospels.

The story of “the widow’s mite” is a powerful one which many of us have been familiar with since Sunday School days. Today the Rev’d Katene Eruera, Manukura of St John’s Theological College, joins Bishop Steve, Anne and Michael to talk about what the two little stories in this week’s Gospel have to say about power, money, success, and being noticed by God.

One of the most familiar passages in the Gospels is when Jesus tells us the “most important” commandments of them all. They’re all about love. Simple? Not really! Join David Tombs, Kelvin Wright and Diana Abercrombie as they discuss with Mike some of the many sides to these central words of Jesus.

In Mark’s gospel we are reaching the end of the long journey to Jerusalem, and come to the last healing Jesus performs on the road: giving sight to blind Bartimaeus. Lisa Emerson, Damon Plimmer and Anne van Gend join Michael this week to discuss seeing Jesus, Jesus’ welcome, and the times we and others might get in the way of that encounter.

The disciples have almost made it to Jerusalem and they still don’t get it. John Franklin, Gillian Townsley and Jeremy Nicolls join Michael to discuss James and John’s ambitions and the indignant remaining disciples. You’ll find some insights here you may not have thought of before!

Some of these Gospel Conversations stand out for the level of fresh insight and challenge they offer. This is one of them. Michael is joined by Bishop Kelvin Wright, Richard Johnson and first-timer Esther Clarke-Prebble, and together they wrestle with uncomfortable questions of wealth and faith, while also helping us to glimpse again the “pearl of great price” which is what we are freely offered by God.

What do we do with Jesus’ blunt statements on divorce? This Gospel passage which has caused heartache and debate and division is discussed today by Gary Griffith-Smith, Anne van Gend, and our latest Gospel Conversation visitor, Lucy Flatt, chaplain of Craighead Diocesan School in Timaru. The issue is far more complex than anything that could be covered in our 15 minutes but since a similar passage comes up each year, there will be more to come! For all the sternness of Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisess, the lectionary reading also shows us the warmth of Jesus gathering the children to him: as always, bringing the small and sidelined (which in his day would have included the vulnerable divorced women) into his love.

Some of the words of Jesus are simply hard. When he speaks of cutting off hands, or millstones around necks, what do we do with that? How about the question of our approach to those outside the church who are clearly doing as Jesus would have us all do? Or the blessings connected with the simple, unheroic act of giving someone a glass of water? Bishop Steve, Gillian Townsley and an Auckland-lockdown-ring-in, Jonathan Gale, bravely tackle these and other questions in this week’s discussion with Michael on Mark 9:38-50.

David Tombs, Fiona Hammond and Diana Abercrombie join Michael for a spirited discussion about confused disciples, entering the Kingdom as a child, and the way Jesus flipped expectations upside down. With such eloquent and involved participants, this is a conversation that was difficult to edit down to 15 minutes!

Michael is joined this week by Gerald Morris (a pastor, scholar and author from Wisconsin) and our own Katie Marcar and Trish Franklin. Together they offer us a vibrant discussion around questions such as, “Who do we say Jesus is?”; “Who do we say we are as disciples?” and “What do we say the church is?”

One of the most uncomfortable passages we encounter in Mark’s Gospel is the story of Jesus and the Syrophonecian woman. This week Chris Holmes, Jan Clark and Richard Atiken join Michael to face the challenges of a Jesus who does not always fit our comfortable images of him, and who yet brings hope that is extended to us no matter who we are.

Peg Riley, until recently long-time chaplain of St Margaret’s College in Christchurch, joins Bishop Kelvin, Alec Clark and Michael to dig deep into a potentially tricky passage of Mark’s gospel. What does it mean to balance the inner and outer life of faith, to ensure the walls come down between us and others, to focus once again on the core of it all: love?

Fresh off a plane from Wellington, Michael finds a corner of his brother’s house in Christchurch to talk with Lisa Emerson, Richard Johnson and Gary Griffith-Smith about the challenges and promises surrounding Jesus’ difficult instructions to “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Anyone not brought up in the Christian faith could be justifiably horrified to hear that read from the Bible. What do we do with it?

This is the second of three weeks in which the gospels look at Jesus as the Bread of Life. David, Trish and Steve challenge us to balance a “spiritual” understanding of the passage with the very real and practical implications of Jesus satisfying physical hunger in a world of inequalities.

This week we have a vibrant discussion around Jesus as the Bread of Life. Our Gillian Townsley and John Franklin are joined by Lisa Emerson from Massey University as they dig into what Jesus might have meant in this “I Am” statement, and the many ways in which it can shape our lives today.

This week we’re discussing the optional readings for the coming Sunday, when we celebrate James and John. What does the story in Matt 20:20-28 tell us about success, service and sainthood? Join Michael as he talks it over with +Kelvin Wright, Judy Ringland, Anne van Gend and Judy’s cat.

+Steve, Gillian and Alec tackle rather a difficult gospel passage together. What do we do with the story of John the Baptist being beheaded? Where is the good news in this “gospel of two halves” and who do we say Jesus is?


David Tombs joins us from the University of Otago as he, Bishop Kelvin, Trish Franklin and Michael engage in a lively and varied discussion of Mark 6:1-13. This conversation is crammed with insights into the incarnation, mission, and finding God in the ordinary people and things of our lives.

John Graveston (Diocesan Child, Youth and Family Educator), Ben Ong, Mona Tavakoli, and Sam Williams join together to discuss women in the Bible, healing, and faith, in this “Ordinary Sunday 13” gospel reading, Mark 5:21-43. 

Michael, Alec Clark and Katie Marcar are joined by a delightful visiting contributor from Brisbane, Fiona Hammond, to discuss storms and boats and crossing over to the other side, in this “Ordinary Sunday 12” gospel reading, Mark 4:35-41.

This week we re-enter “Ordinary time”, and Tony, Gillian and Anne thoroughly enjoy themselves as they toss around ideas about mustard seeds and seed-scattering, kereru and ploughers – and some bonus Martin Luther. The Gospel is Mark 4:26-34 for Ordinary Sunday 11.

We’ve reached Pentecost! This week Michael hosts a discussion with Gillian Townsley (St Hilda’s and Otago University); Jenny Dawson (a past ministry educator and present spiritual director from Wellington Diocese) and Alec Clark (well known to all in our diocese as a past DME). Together they start to untangle some of the complexities of John’s story of the coming of the Spirit.

Chris Holmes returns, and is joined by both John and Trish Franklin to talk about John 3:1-17. The focus was on the gospel passage rather than delving directly into the mysteries of the Trinity! Apologies for the heavy editing – youtube restricts us to 15 minutes and there was clearly lots to talk about on this passage.

In a slightly different Gospel Conversation, Bishop Kelvin Wright, the Rev’d Jan Clark and the Rev’d Claire Brown join Michael to talk about the significance of Te Pouhere Sunday to the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. Drawing on all four gospel readings suggested for this Sunday, they explore what the Bible may be urging us towards in terms of our Tikanga relationships, and what this unique way of being can offer the world.

For the past few Sundays we have been studying the final teaching Jesus gave his disciples before he was betrayed. This week’s conversation is around John 17: 6-19, where Jesus is praying for his disciples, and (as we discover next week) for us as well. Michael Godfrey speaks with Anne van Gend (Diocesan Community Ministry Enabler), Judy Ringland Stewart (lay minister, Port Chalmers Parish) and Rev’d Gray Griffith-Smith (Vicar of Gore Parish). 

In this Gospel Conversation for Easter 6, the Diocesan Ministry Educator Michael Godfrey is joined by Bishop Steve Benford, Katie Marcar (University of Otago New Testament lecturer) and Steve Mitchell (Pilot and Businessperson, Invercargill). The conversation is on John 15: 9-17 exploring what it might mean to be the True Vine… on being loved and loving each other. Who would have thought that God wants to be our friend….?!

In this Gospel Conversation for Easter 5, the Diocesan Ministry Educator Michael Godfrey is joined by Chris Holmes, University of Otago Theology Department, Trish Franklin, an Educator at Otago Polytechnic and Jonathan Wood, landscape design gardener from Dunedin as they talk about John 15:1-8 and what it means to be connected to the vine.

In this Gospel Conversation for Easter 4, the Diocesan Ministry Educator is joined by Dr Gillian Townsley (chaplain at St Hilda’s School), the Rev’d Vivienne Galletly (hospital chaplain) and the Rev’d Richard Johnson (Dean for Rural Ministry). They discuss John 10:11-18 where Jesus explores imagery surrounding shepherds, sheep, wolves and hired hands. 

In the second of these the Diocesan Ministry Educator converses with Bishop Kelvin Wright, Anne Van Gend (Diocesan Community ministry Enabler) and Gary Griffith-Smith (Vicar of Gore Parish) around Luke 24: 36-48, the final appearance of Jesus to the disciples  (according to Luke) before he was taken up into heaven. 

In the first of these the Diocesan Ministry Educator converses with Katie Marcar (Otago University Programme and All Saints’, North Dunedin), Tony Martin (St Paul’s Cathedral and Emergency Management Otago) and Richard Johnson (Dean for Rural Ministry and Interim Priest, Winton) as they turn their eyes on the Risen Jesus as he encounters St Thomas and each of us in an upper room in Jerusalem (John 20: 19-31).