Commentary on Mark, 11 January 2021
The latest update to my Markan commentary is here.
(Updated November 24 2021)
Funeral Homily for Brian Prior, 29 June 2011
Today I officiate at the funeral of my Uncle Brian Prior. I'm preaching from Matthew 25, so I've included it in the lectionary series for Matthew.
What are we to think about how life goes on after the death of someone we love? What’s ultimately important?
There’s a story in the Gospel of Matthew, which imagines a king, at the end of time, standing out next to the shearing shed, drafting sheep. I reckon Brian probably did this a few times!
Only the king is not drafting the wethers out from the ewes, down at the sheep yards at Hillview, he’s drafting the sheep out from the goats. Someone is pushing the mob down the race, and the king is on the drafting gate sending the sheep to the right and the goats to the left.
And then, as the story goes... the King says to the sheep, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Now there’s a little joke going on here, because these words came as a bit of a surprise to some of the sheep, because they thought they might be heading for the other place.... Read on >>>>
This Great Prayerof Thanksgiving was written for this Trinity sermon
The Great Prayer
At the Beginning.... ... ...
something... exploded into being
chaos fire fury even anarchy
and the Dance was here...
as Maker Word and Spirit
began to draw all things
to Itself..... Read on >>>>
Each year, in December, we had a school social; the dance. My parents insisted that I should go. I hated it. I was un-sociable. I don’t like crowds, I’m shy, and I’m what my family calls... “spatially challenged.” That means: pig ugly clumsy. I can’t dance.
This particular year I’d actually gone to a country dance when we were on holidays. I was safely anonymous at the Burdett Hall, out from Mannum. I even plucked up courage to ask a girl for a dance... and fell over and broke my arm whilst doing The Military Two Step. I was evacuated to Adelaide, and spent five days in hospital with a compound fracture.
So when the school social came, I was standing uncomfortable, at the edge of the room, not wanting to be there, unable to dance, completely on the outside. My arm was in plaster.... Read on >>>>
A friend of mine has a list of 21 words she no longer uses in sermons. These words are some of the (once) most important words in the Christian faith. Her list includes: sin, justification, sanctification, gospel. Last time I talked to her, this Lutheran was even thinking of adding the word "grace" to the list.
Why does she do this? For one thing, some of the words--justification, sanctification--make a modern person's eyes glaze over. The last person to resonate to the word "sanctification" died decades, if not centuries, ago. Secondly, even the words people think they understand--sin, gospel--don't mean what many think they mean. Says Presbyterian John Schuck:
I find much of our modern theological work little more than dealing in antiquities. The Trinity, the person of Christ, the sacraments, the authority of the Bible, eschatology, and so forth were invented in the pre-modern era and are best suited for that time period.
This does not mean that we are smarter or more hip than the people who invented these ideas. We simply have changed. Trying to retrofit our belief systems to a modern understanding of the Universe, Earth, and Earth's inhabitants turns theologians and pastors into pawn brokers for ancient religious relics that fewer and fewer people embrace...
AWAKE BEFORE THE SUN
It is still dark, but it is a darkness I know well, the darkness of night about to yield to morning. This is my favorite time, a time of exquisite solitude, the kind of solitude that has nothing to do with loneliness. It will not stretch dangerously on and on for hours, like the solitude of late night, luring me into sadness. The dark before dawn is limited; it knows its time is short. Anything can happen... Read Barbara here >>>>
The Almost-Daily eMo from the Geranium Farm is a delightful email I receive... almost daily.
Trinity is not arcane doctrine. The architecture of the Central Processing Unit in my computer, or in the one on which you read this article is arcane doctrine . It’s there, it works, but it’s not relevant to you and me. All that matters is that it works. The theologians from Intel can worry about it... and good luck to them!
This classic Australian poem was published inThe Sydney Mail, 25 July 1896. Perhaps Mulga Bill should have started with a road bike rather than going straight into downhill MTB!
'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"... Read on >>>>
Think about living in Israel.... It’s dry, and it’s hot. Every year there is a wind which blows as the seasons change from winter to summer. It’s called the Hamsin, and it’s like a bad north wind that we get here on a foul hot, dusty day. The moon goes blood red, even the sun, like we get with a bad dust storm. We get a few days like this each year. In Israel, it happens every year! It is so regular and predictable, that the wind, the Hamsin, has been named after the time it lasts. Hamsin means “50”, and it lasts about that long; fifty days.
It was a time of great anxiety in ancient Israel, because a bad windy season could destroy the harvest. Imagine having a couple of rainwater tanks, and maybe a well in your backyard; or more probably there would be one a few streets away. That’s all the water you can have.
And the only food you have is what you can grow. There is no Coles, no Woolies, no IGA. The rich people at Hillbank might have enough money to buy food in, but herein Elizabeth, if you don't grow it, you won't eat it!
This meant harvest festival, harvest thanksgiving, was a really big deal; no tinned foods on the table down the front. At harvest festival, which they called Pentecost, there was a real, fervent thanksgiving for the harvest. And if the harvest was poor, there was a suspicion that God was not pleased. A poor harvest, or a bad windy season with the Hamsin, was a sign the people had not been faithful, they thought, and that God was punishing them... Read on >>>>
Rabbits are not native to Australia. They are a feral pest. There were times before myxomatosis when we were almost been buried under rabbits. Despite this, rabbit is a good and nutritious food; so much so, that in Australia it is sometimes called underground mutton. Up north we used to say to the CSIRO scientists, “Do what you like to kill out the rabbits, but don’t bring it up here, because here rabbit is a really important part of the diet.”
On the sandy plains in Pitjantjatjara country, rabbits have a side effect. They attract lizards. The big sandy warrens of the newcomer rabbits have become a haven for Perentie, the fourth largest lizard on the planet.... Read on >>>>
Let’s begin with two things about John 17.
John 17 is not a bottle of nice light Rosé wine which we consume for lunch. It is not to be read at a sitting. John 17 is Glenmorangie, which is to be nursed and savoured in small sips while we think about things at the end of the day. John 17 is deep and complex, rich and layered. We will only sip a little, today.
John 17 is also not an impromptu prayer at the end of tea before the disciples and Jesus go out to the Kidron Valley (cf Chapter 18). That’s just the surface appearance. It is planned and carefully written. It is a theological manifesto.
When you wrote about a person in Jesus’ time, the done thing was to include a farewell speech, a kind of last will and testament, which summed up the essence of their teaching. You might remember Moses’ farewell speech that starts in Deuteronomy chapter 29... Read on >>>>
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come...’ This sounds like the closing prayer of the meeting. In fact, it is the closing prayer of his life. John 18 tells us that “after Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden...” The gospel ending is suddenly rushing upon us.
We could do worse than read this mystical prayer as his benediction, his last “good word,” spoken to us, and for us, as we face our lone journey to a garden somewhere.
Like all of John, the words have layer upon layer of meaning. There is comfort and challenge... Read on >>>>
This site is about celebrating life. My own life is too busy; my work is almost designed to keep me from reflection and enjoyment. In the busyness and competition of life, it is hard, especially for men, to be honest about fears and feelings. All this works against celebrating and enjoying life except in a most shallow fashion. So here, I seek to be unbusy.
One Man's Web has grown haphazardly, reflecting the interests of friends and myself. You will find abandoned blind alleys, ideas we no longer adhere to, things we never believed but "hung out there" to see what would happen. There are areas where I am remain passionate, but can't keep up; the area on Australia's refugees is one.
If you find some enjoyment or challenge here, I am glad. Celebrate life!