Landscape from Young, NSW 2011

One Man's Web

Reading: John 1:6-9, 19-28

A Sermon which notes that all the bits of the reading about Jesus in verses 9-18 are cut out by the lectionary. It asks us to look at John.

Have you ever noticed something odd about your minister? I have a colleague who sometimes stops in the middle of his sermon, to think, and places his hand on his head… like this…  You can tell me better than I can, what little quirks I have!

But let's imagine the hand on the head stuff is me. You've seen this a hundred times, and one day, I put my hand on my head, and for some reason, it really irritates you. It gets right under your skin and you feel quite grumpy.

Is there something bad about a hand on the head? Why did it bother you this time, when mostly you just smile to yourself— "that's Andrew, hand on his head again… no wonder he's getting a bald spot."

I find… that when things set me off, it's actually not usually the person and what they've done, … but it's something in me. Something about what they did pressed a button, or touched a sore spot in me— nothing to do with them, actually, and I get grumpy.

Now here's the important thing— let's turn this around: if you… remind me… of my sore spot that was hurt long ago, but I get grumpy at you… what does that achieve?

What I need to deal with is the sore spot… maybe the fact that I'm channelling the way I used to feel at school when someone said something hurtful.  If I externalise… my problem, if I project it… onto you, the problem stays unhealed in me, and I visit a violence upon you when I blame you… for something that's about me… for something you didn't do!  Just like our old cat, who used to get into trouble for jumping up on the table, and each time she got into trouble for that, she went and beat up the other cat— every time. That's externalising.   All she needed to do was stay off the table... Read on >>>>

There are times when the Revised Common Lectionary bemuses me.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to witness to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to witness to the light.

But the lectionary then removes the actual witness to the Light by John the Writer and John the Baptiser, which is contained in verses 9 to 18, and goes on to repeat John the Baptiser's statement that he himself was not the light which had come into the world. Repetition in scripture is always important; it cries Look here!  Now if it were the case that disciples of John the Baptiser were leafleting my congregation, and claiming that it was John who was the Messiah, then there would be obvious sense in this week's reading and its exclusions. But our problem is not that we think John the Baptiser is the Messiah. Our problem is that we think we know and understand the Light of the world; that is, it's we who do the leafleting. Too often, we proselytise particularities of doctrine which are anything but light. Too often our good news of the Kingdom is subverted by the mores and hopes of Empire, so that the Christ light is disastrously filtered.... Read on >>>>

Life goes on. Like yesterday. Just another prophet in the Judean wilderness. More bad behaviour by the Emperor. More column inches. But nothing changes. Ministers and priests will explain the significance of Mark and Genesis beginning with the same word, they will remind us that Elijah the Tishbite was a hairy man with a leather belt, and perhaps even suggest that gospel, the third word of Mark, already appropriates the jargon of Empire, but life goes on. Manses already exhausted by the year wonder if they can do more than simply endure the three remaining weeks. Some secretly rejoice at Church Council's decision to focus on a Sunday Christmas Eve service and forgo Monday morning. Others wonder if Advent will ever be heard above the inundation of the entire suburb by this year's over-amplified Community Christmas Carols which predominately celebrated the Feast of Christ the Consumer. Nothing changes here... Read on >>>>

As my friend Yvonne and I entered the platform at Mawson Lakes, a young woman rushed up to us in a terrified panic, and thrust her phone into my hands crying, "Please talk to my father!" She'd left the temporary bus service from Adelaide to discover she'd been followed across two buses by a man who had been standing far too close.

We escorted her to Salisbury, and things ended as well as something like this can end.

Yvonne and I debriefed each other a little on the way to her station.

"It's good that she had someone to ring," she said.

We talked about how hard it must have been to run up to another unknown man, even though being a man and woman together with pushbikes must have made us look a lot less threatening than other choices.

And then Yvonne said, "The trouble is, some people have no one to ring."

I thought about that as I rode home. Maybe that's what we are supposed to be about as a church. Not doctrine, not getting more bums on seats, and not fitting someone's idea of being successful. We're meant to be the family you can ring when you've got no one else to ring.

And it is a whole family thing, not just the minister. I had swung into action— told the Dad to ring SAPOL, identified the man concerned, tried to talk to her later about making sure she rang the police if she ever saw him again— all that stuff. But Yvonne talked about being scared, and children, and needing a dog to walk in the street. Woman to woman, and gentle and healing. We're meant to be the family you can ring when you've got no one else to ring.

 Archived here

James Alison says that when the Spirit falls on Cornelius' household already before Peter had finished speaking

… we see the dawning realisation that God likes the impure people, that God wants them to be on the inside of God's story just as [Peter is.] God is not confronting them to get them to repent, or even inviting them to be something else. God is possessing them with delight, and they are delighting in being possessed. They are starting to tell a story, which in theory is an impossible story, of how they have come to discover themselves liked by God.... Read on >>>>

And so, after our annual Synod, three days of some inspiration and blessing but of much more pain and despair, we come to the new year of the church, and begin to read The Gospel According to Mark. After Synod, I suspect many of us will feel more allergic than usual to the apocalyptic interpretation we have been taught to read into Mark Chapter 13!

My First Impressions this week attempts to maintain and reorient my place in Christ after the last few days, as I read Mark 13. This post makes many local references— I am writing for friends I love, and writing even more to myself. But the themes are universal, and critical to the living out of the Faith, and for what we will read from Mark this year.

I remember the Gospel of Mark as a sustained critique of empire and the powers. It suits my inclinations as I live in the world of Abbott, One Nation, Trump, and all the rest. But I can read it with an apocalyptic or with an eschatological mindset. I have learned this distinction especially from James Alison in my reading of Raising Abel.

Apocalypse is about a violent ending to the creation, a retribution by God against the tyrants, and the vindication of God's people. Behind this understanding of the completion of all things is a God who is a super version of ourselves. He— deliberate pronoun— will redeem and cleanse the world from its violence and evil, by using even more violence.

In apocalyptic thinking "the hope is in God’s ultimate sacred violence [whereas in] eschatological thinking… the nonviolent God is rescuing us human beings from our own violence." (NuechterleinRead on >>>>

Chapter 25 continues Matthew's tantalising and breathtaking invitation to a new way of being. I sense we are being invited to a radically different vision of reality, but I struggle to construct for myself a neat summation of what this chapter, and especially what the vision of the nations as sheep, or as horrified and confounded goats, may say to us. This does not surprise me, for in these stories we are not dealing with intellectual ideas which can be discussed dispassionately. These stories are portals—doors for entering into rather than for grasping the significance of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension—portals to which the whole gospel so far, has been leading us. We are not being invited to see things differently so much as we are being invited into a new reality.

This post explores the entering of this new reality, and why it sometimes seems so hard and counter intuitive. In many ways this post is more about a way of reading the text than a detailed exploration of the text itself... Read on >>>>

15-TheBikeI've wanted to do a loop through Blinman for some time. It went wrong in February this year when my back wheel began to die mid-trip. This trip was the follow up... 988km over four days. Read on >>>>


From the text...

What we often take as a trick question about the Messiah was really a question about love and neighbour, and implied a great change from the common expectation of a conquering Messiah. How can you love God as a military conqueror!?  And so the text says "No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions."  This was not because they'd been vanquished in an argument, but because they had been given an insight that turned everything on its head. It was a time for reconsidering everything.

Like those Pharisees, we all walk away from the inspiration of God. We all need time to unpack. We all have moments like Jim Trott in the Vicar of Dibley… when, after lots of No, we say Yes.  

Except sometimes we never say… Yes. A deep-seated fear of the cost of the great commandment blinds us to its simplicity and to its grace— to the life it gives us—  and we refuse it. Or perhaps it is more true to say we seek to defuse it by limiting its reach into our life and behaviour. 

[The Pharisees] goal was to "make a fence for the law"—in others words, to protect it from infringement by surrounding it with specific rules of interpretation and application to daily life. Their original purpose was admirable, to enhance inward faithfulness to the law in daily life. Alyce McKenzie

But the real fence is the protection of me from what I know, without knowing, to be the cost of loving my neighbour as myself. It is a fence of fear. All the rules, all the keeping of doctrine, all the being morally pure, is about keeping me safe... Read on >>>>

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