Horrock's Pass, Wilmington 2016

One Man's Web

Father, may we be full of mercy.
May we be a people of love.

May our love not be diverted
into the ways of hatred, fed by fear,
and fueled by those who demand security
at the cost of other lives.

Let us not be afraid.
May we not be taught to fear
the innocent victims of war and terror.
May our love not be diverted
by those who wish us to fear the innocent
so that we will fail to see injustice
and fail to speak the truth of love.

Let us learn from you
what it is to be merciful.
Let us learn from the Christ
what it is to love.
Fill us with the Spirit of love.  Amen.

You can listen here

Why is this man sick? Sometimes we get sick because there is a physical or a genetic problem. If you are coeliac, for example, then anything with gluten in it will make you really ill.

But a lot of what makes us sick is the society in which we live. Folk who end up in our mental health wards report a horrifying level of abuse in their life. Folk who crash out, and come in desperation to a minister, almost always have a huge level of stress in their lives, which can be traced back to the way society works. Perhaps most of the time... it is us— the city we live in— that makes us sick.

The story in Luke is written to indicate that the man is made sick by the city. He is called a man of the city
And that means... that when Jesus arrives on the other side of the lake, he is not met by a sick man at all. He is met by a representative of the city... it is the city which is sick
And that... means.. that it is the city which needs healing, as much as the man does. In fact, heal the city, and we will probably heal the man... Read on >>>>

For a wider reading of the text this week, I recommend my post from last Lectionary cycle: Setting our Face Towards Paradox.

Closer to home this cycle, you can listen here, or read on below the text from Luke 9:51-62

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’[as Elijah did.] 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then [Other ancient authorities read rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what spirit you are of, 56for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them.’ Then] they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60But he said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

For the cousins who enrich my life...

My great-grandfather was sent back to England to train as a Methodist minister, although he never completed those studies. "Rarely settled for long," he must have been one of the richer men in Victoria, for a time: He bought a city mansion for his daughter's wedding because it had a suitably large ballroom. But before that, when great-grandma Seenie died, my grandfather was sent 'home' to South Australia, because his step-mother "did not want anything to do with him." Dad said that "he in many ways felt that his father had deserted him." As a small child, I knew nothing of that story, but it was obvious that Grandpop, although kind and generous, was full of pain even though I couldn't quite articulate that... Read on >>>>

You can listen here...

Let me attempt a reading of this story.  Jesus has just calmed a storm; we might pun that he has shown his power over the elements, those elemental spirits (Col 2:8,20) that lurk in untamed depths of water.  Water remains dangerous to us (and in the imagination of the New Testament) because although God has said Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear, (Genesis 1:9) which brought the Chaos under control, creation is not yet complete. That will not happen until the sea [is] no more. (Rev 21:1) The lake and the sea are always threat. And now Jesus steps out onto the land, which proves to be another place of elemental spirits. As he stepped out on land; this the challenge is immediate. Perhaps the land is no more safe than the sea. Perhaps the sea is really only a symbol of the violence of the country in which we live. The Gerasenes are us.

The challenge at this moment comes from a man of the city. Where did the city come from? There is no mention of a city before this;  they were going to the country of the Gerasenes, which signifies the place— the whole cultural environment— which the Gerasenes inhabit. Suddenly the place they live is diagnosed as the city.

The city is always an ambiguous place in Scripture. It is certainly not green pastures beside still waters in the presence of God despite the presence of enemy and death. (Psalm 23) It is the place of gathering, which it is not called ecclesia. Unhealed city always has the smell of "The Naked City," John Sylvester's crime column from The Age. His title reflects the underbelly of our gathering as people. Under the brick-veneer of our civility there is something visceral and naked about us; something driven. We are owned by our appetites... Read on >>>>

What is it that we have actually done here today in this baptism?

We've said it means God loves Evie May. Indeed it concerns all of us who are here today, not just Evie May; God loves those of us who are in this building for the very first time, and those of us who've been coming here Sunday after Sunday for 50 years.  But what does that mean?

Baptism is not just words and water. It's a promise. It's the promise that's in the reading from John 10 where Jesus says, "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly." Some translations say, so "that you might have life in all its fullness."

But let's put this in really cold, hard, on-the-ground practical terms. Climate models predict we’re currently on track for an average global temperature rise of somewhere between 3C and 4C by the year 2100.  When Evie May is my age, 65, she'll be living in a fundamentally different world,  where climate scientists openly wonder about the very survival of our civilisation. The Emeritus Director of the Potsdam Institute... warns that “climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.” He says that if we continue down the present path “there is a very big risk that we'll will just end our civilisations. The human species will survive somehow but we'll destroy almost everything we have built up over the last two thousand years."  In 2018, Rear Admiral Chis Barrie told an Australian Senate inquiry that "after nuclear war, human- induced global warming is the greatest threat to human life on the planet." ((Breeze,N.2018.“It’s non-linearity, stupid”,​The Ecologist​,3 January 2019, accessed 18 March 2019, https://theecologist.org/2019/jan/03/its-nonlinearity- stupid) quoted in Existential Climate Related Security Risk.)

So how can there be any good news in this?... Read on >>>>

You can listen here.

Imagine this: A traveller comes to the city gate.

The gates are where the laws of the city are put into action. At the gate the city decides— the gatekeepers decide— if you are to be allowed to enter. The city will decide if you belong, or if you are an alien or a sojourner. At the gates, the city will decide if you will be rejected. And for those inside the city, it is at the gates that the city will decide if you still belong, or if you will be thrown out. That's the world of Boaz and Ruth, and of Jesus, and all of us in church know about... gatekeepers.

There are two people at the gate who will be especially significant for us. One is the satan. He is the accuser, the prosecutor, the one who will tell the city that you are wrong, that you are a danger, that you should be expelled in order to keep the peace. So the gossip in the back room who says we should not allow so and so to be in church is.... a satan. And if you are human like me, you know that even in your own heart there is a satan, an accuser who tells you that you are unworthy, that you are not good enough, and that God does not love you.

But also in the gate, or in the gateway is the goel. The goel can be translated as the redeemer. If you translate the thought into Greek you might call the goel the paraclete, or the Advocate for the defence. The goel is the one who will pay money for you, to redeem you, and to allow you to enter the city and become one of us. In Ruth chapter 4, Boaz redeems Ruth, the outsider and alien from Moab, an often enemy country. He redeems her in the gate of the city; she becomes one of them, and is great-grandmother of David the great King... Read on >>>>

The Ascension of Jesus is decades ago. People feel separated from God; this is why John has Philip ask Jesus to show them the Father. Into this anxiety, John speaks the Good News to his community. He says to Philip, "If you have seen me, you have seen the father." And, more good news, they have not been left orphaned. The father has sent another Advocate, another helper as Jesus was, to be with them. And Jesus says, "You know him because he abides with you, and he will be among you." In John's time, that future statement is fulfilled. Jesus is saying to John's community, "You know him because he abides with you and he is with you."

Augustine speaks to every one of us who has ever felt belittled by 'spiritual' Christians: "How can we love so as to receive Him, without whom we cannot love at all? And his answer was: "We are therefore to understand that [the one] who loves has already the Holy Spirit, and by what [she] has [she] becomes worthy of a fuller possession..."

We forget who we are. We are not the first Christians of Jerusalem. We are not those who are witnessing a new outpouring of God called Holy Spirit. We are the children of those people. And so, for us, the presence of the spirit is the same as the presence in John's community. "You know him because he abides with you and he is with you." ... Read on >>>>

You can listen here

I long for glory. Some nights, when the noise of the highway has begun to fade, I stand in our back yard looking into the stars, and it is as though I might fall into the sky; it is as though we are on the edge of something so profound we can barely guess what it is, yet sense that there is something here— that we are a part of something— which in swallowing us up would fulfil us beyond our dreams: Glory. I sense some thing the same as we gather tired and distressed around the Table in all our difference and irritation and pettiness. We are near that One which is Glory.

Chapter 17 is a summing up of John's Gospel. It is the final word before the decisive act of human history, which begins in Chapter 18: "After Jesus had spoken these words, [the words of Chapter 17] he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden..." That valley divides the Mount of Olives (where the Messiah stands to rescue Jerusalem in Zechariah 14) and the city of the temple. It is a great divide, and yet Jesus seeks to heal the divide and make the two places one.  John calls the place, not the Mount of Olives, but a garden, a paradise, in Latin, that genesis-place in the tradition where we hold the vision of Creation in its wholeness. In fact, in his death and resurrection, Jesus does heal the divide; the question is whether we will embrace the healing... Read on >>>>

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