The Stuart Highway, near Kulgera NT 2016

One Man's Web

This post is not about the specifics of the Palm Sunday gospels. For that, read "Jesus, rain on my parade." This post seeks to find what will inform my reading of the gospels for Palm Sunday and, indeed, the Easter gospels.

What was Jesus trying to do on Palm Sunday?

We are too quick if we answer that he was trying to say something about a different kind of kingship. I have preached that Palm Sunday is an acting out of his good news that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand; that his entry into the city is the entry of peace, a king riding on a donkey rather than a war horse. I have suggested that kingdom is an unhelpful word because of all the masculine privilege bound up within it. I like kindom, which removes gender as an enduring sin within the Community of Divine Love, and which challenges all our notions of race, and other privilege.  

All that is there, but something else is happening: He is daring death. If we hasten past this, we miss...  nearly everything... Read on >>>


19The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’ Even the urbane and sophisticated "Greeks," the Hellenised Jews from the Diaspora, were flocking to see this Jesus whom John subtly reminds springs from among the naïve religious outsiders: "They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’"

And so last night we joined the Festival thousands along the footpaths of North Terrace, marvelling at the light shows projected upon the sacred old buildings of white settlement. We began at the city's "first cultural centre [which] has been a library, art gallery, museum, society meeting place and offices, place of adult education, administration headquarters and information centre." This is the South Australian Institute Building. In a great irony the real first culture projected its own dreaming over the façade of the building of the invaders in a technical and aesthetic masterpiece.  This irony was enriched when I read this morning.... Read on >>>>

I often write in these pages of my experience that something about living compassionately heals us.  It allows God to work in us. Something happens despite our limitations; something outside us. That is; I'm clear that it's not me doing this, it's been done to me. But I've never been able to put words to what is going on in my life.... I am fascinated to discover a mechanism for what seems to be happening in my healing and growth, and what has happened in my past. It immediately filters out the extravagant claims of the court prophets*— perhaps now we should call them the populist prophets— of the church. It warns me to be patient in my living. It focuses me upon the way of Jesus..... Read on >>>>

I still remember the shock that "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world." I was not quite able to see the implication of my response to this verse some forty years ago, which was that I had somehow internalised the idea that God does condemn the world. Informing and colouring everything else was an underlying instinct that God does not really like us; that God barely tolerates us. It was as though this subliminal text ran between the lines on every page of my bible: You don't deserve this. God does not like you.

We speak of God's love, yet the way we see and feel this love is shaped by a fear or instinct that, in truth, at base, God does not love us or, at least, not me. God's love is very conditional.

Does this mean that God is not to be trusted? Do we hate God for this? Is God one of those wowsers (an ineffably pious person who mistakes this world for a penitentiary and himself for a warder) who, no matter what we do, or who we are, will always find something to condemn us with?... Read on >>>>

"Mr. Smith, the problem is that you are overweight. You have to lose weight and then these other problems will disappear, or become manageable." This diagnosis may be appropriate for a particular moment in the doctor's surgery, but it assumes that Mr Smith's weight is the problem, rather than perhaps being a symptom  of other issues in his life.

What about the "problem" we call depression. Is it, in fact, a symptom of wider issues in our lives, as much as it is a problem of itself?

Growing up, there was no such thing as a depression in my world. I knew of a bloke called "Old Melancholy," and there were two blokes whose name was preceded by the title "Happy," which was a clear indication that, characteristically, they were not. But men were never mentally unwell, much less depressed. The use of the word grows noticeably from about 1970, according to the Google Ngram.

We knew about shell-shock, but it was kept safely distant to refer to the wounds of World War I. No one used it of the WWII veteran in our small town, who I now recognise to have been badly traumatised. There was no sense that men lived with mental illness; we were either sane or mad. In the latter case you were removed to Glenside.

However, women were allowed to have breakdowns, or nervous breakdowns. I rather suspect this served to help us men stay secure in our perceived strength and stability, and to reinforce and justify our sexism.

I say all this to make a point: Depression is not polio. It is not a simple disease for which we have a vaccine. Our society-wide hiding and repression of the reality of mental illness warns us that there is something much deeper going on.... Read on >>>>

I'm living through one of the long downturns of my emotional life cycle. My affect is somewhere between blunted and flat. I understand some of the reasons for this: the hypervigilance of childhood trauma and all its side effects, never really stops. It is always a matter of management. Such management is not easy, because when we're down, our resistance to society's discomfort with us, is lowered. We are told we are the ones with the problem. We won't fit in; we won't lighten up; we won't get over it. It's not a fair assessment. In fact, it's the self defence of a relentlessly upbeat culture which is terrified of feeling, and especially of allowing feelings which are not positive. A person who is sad for more than a few hours confronts society with its deepest fears. Even death is allowed only a few days of being down, and then folk begin to think we should be over it, and may even tell us so.

But always I end up blaming myself. Why can I never fit in? Why am I so useless that simple life tasks are often beyond me, and always a burden? It occurs to me, as we consider our faith during Lent, to wonder just how Jesus affects all this.

Look at what he does in John Chapter 2: Jesus' storming of the temple is dragged right back to the beginning of John's gospel. In the other three gospels, his actions in the temple are the last straw in getting him arrested. In John, his driving all of them out of the temple, and turning over the tables and tipping out their money, sets the scene for reading the gospel. It is the action by which were are meant to interpret who he is, and what he means.... Read on >>>

I can see why bikes work for me. As a child, any socialisation meant walking the two miles to my cousins' farm. A couple of times, I persuaded a parent to deliver me to the town swimming pool, and I walked the six hot miles home at the end of the afternoon. The Christmas present of Cousin Bill's old Colton Palmer and Preston bicycle was freedom on two wheels! The boy whose life was developing around the metaphor of journeying, was all set.

Transport was a problem in Adelaide as a student; I lived some 10 kilometres from where I studied, and the buses were less than helpful. A bike was a tenth the price of a Mini Moke. The new machine had gears, and I discovered that it was a fine way to explore the Adelaide Hills.

At the end of my first year, I went fruit picking; Ag. Science students had to do on-farm experience each holidays, and this seemed a good beginning. My Dad delivered me, and the bike, to a fruit block near Moorook. It was brutal work, and as we got faster, we were paid less per bucket of peaches! At the end of the first week or two, it began to rain, and we were laid off, and told to come back when it stopped raining.  I decided to quit. How hard could it be to ride back to Adelaide?... Read on >>>>

I had been planning a mid-March 1200km effort, but March began to fill up with unexpected work issues. So when the forecast showed unusually mild weather a month earlier, I set out with 48 hours notice— including a new back wheel via my amazing bike shop. I was a bit under-cooked, so was content to merely finish the distance. Doing the 1200 in the Audax 90 hours was only going to happen with an extraordinary alignment of the spheres!

I made some strategy changes from my last trip up north  which paid off really well. I'd love to do a 90 hour 1200, or at least get it in within 4 days (96 hours), so maybe the learning from this latest trip will help a future attempt. In the event, I brought up the 1200km in 110 hours, 11 minutes... Read on >>>

"If there is a God," wrote Simone Weil — a secular Jew who converted to Christianity, "it is not an insignificant fact, but something that requires a radical rethinking of every little thing. Your knowledge of God can't be considered as one fact among many. You have to bring all the other facts into line with the fact of God.” (quoted by Rev James Eaton, who directed me here.) 

In a similar vein, Walter Wink said,

It is the great error of humanity to believe that it is human. We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human. We see glimpses of our humanness, we can dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness. Only God is human, and we are made in God’s image and likeness—which is to say, we are capable of becoming human. (Quoted here)...

Given this, perhaps it's not so surprising that Jesus said about following him,

if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 

Because if we are "only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human…" if we but "see glimpses of our humanness," then our ideas of what the Messiah will likely be equally broken.... Read on >>>

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