On from Young, 2011

One Man's Web

The Podcast

Joining the text as Eve eats the 'apple': ... so she ate the thing that God was protecting her from! And Adam watched her eat. Adam let her eat. And when God questioned him, he said, "Not me, Lord. Not us— not you and me. It was them... that is, it was her. (Just like the misogynists of today still say: "It was her. She can't be ordained or in leadership." It's the same old blame game.)

She took the apple, said Adam. And the rest is history. Eve blamed the serpent, and, as they say, the serpent didn't have a leg to stand on.

One way of looking at what happens next, is this. Adam gets put out of the garden, too. He tries to put himself on God's side, but God says, "There are no sides. There is only us. We are all in this together. So we all leave the garden... together."

That way of doing things: blaming, avoiding responsibility, making people like us into a 'them,' is what means we lose paradise. I wonder what would have happened if Eve had simply said, "I was jealous, I didn't trust your goodness to me. I am sorry." Or if Adam had said, "I was happy for her to eat, because I was jealous, too. I didn't trust your goodness to me." I wonder if it was not so much that God drove them out of the garden, as it was that they could not stand to be in the presence of God along with their lies. They had no peace....

...  'Us and them' blinds us to God, and it blinds us to the truth that there is only 'us.'

Here is what that word from our text,  "How is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?" means: The world is a way of describing us. The world is us when we insist on the  old human law— the old human lie— of' us and them.'

The world is a way of describing us when we insist
that we are better,
that we are different,
and that other people are less than us,
and deserve less than us,
and can be treated without the respect we demand for ourselves.

The world is a way of living.
It damages us and destroys us.

We Christians can be the world: we... can be those who no longer see Jesus, and who cannot feel the peace Jesus gives. It will be because we have not trusted him, and have only trusted the old deadly law and lie of 'us and them.'

There is no peace, then, and there cannot be... Read on >>>>

You can listen here.

From the text:
It does seem as though Jesus just couldn't help himself when it came to healing people in a way that would cause offence to the establishment. And yet it's clear why. Unless something radically different breaks in on our consciousness in a way that is startling, or aggressive, or even offensive, then we often don't see it for what it is. We remove its offence, or we domesticate it in some way, or we simply forget it.

We all live inside our own view of the world; some would say we live within a paradigm (Kuhn) or an episteme. (Focault) Whatever we call it, and however we nuance it, we live in a reality which we may not much like, but which is our reality; we know it or, at least, we think we do. Going outside of it is really frightening, and extremely hard work. Everything about us works to prevent us from going outside.... .... And so we reject the offering of something truly new— something deep in us tells us our life depends on this rejection, and that it is better not to disturb things. Or, like the man in the story of John 5, we grasp onto something of the surface of a new thing, but in reality, it becomes merely a gloss painted over our old being, which remains fundamentally unchanged... Read on >>>>

Podcast

I remember the shock of seeing him in the mirror. I liked him. It was the first time. I was fifty. Sometime around then, one of my children took a photo of me, the first one I ever liked. I began, in those years, to value and enjoy life, rather than live occasional days or weeks of distraction and temporary forgetfulness of all the self-hate and alienation. I realised one day that I was 'at home' in the world; I belonged; it was my place; it was good; I was no longer defined by alienation and pain.

We forget. We sleep securely in our slavery. (Carole Etzler) The money inures us a little— buys us some anaesthesia, we find others to look down upon, and we forget, or do not begin to see, just how much we are driven by the world, and what it has done to us. But every so often, the Spirit gives us eyes to see: last week, when I made a dopey mistake, I exclaimed, "Oh Andrew," with an emphasis on the syllables which I had not heard since childhood. I knew the voice at once, and recognised an undefined pain which is still too hard to begin to explore. The world comes into our kitchen and owns us and gives us no peace at all; it only tells us where we must go. We have simply forgotten this, most of the time, or become used to it... or not yet woken up... Read on >>>>

This post continues my exploration of Acts 9-11.  At its base is the sense that, even now, we have barely understood what it means when God says to Peter, "What God has made clean, you must not call profane." What follows is more notes than anything complete.

Peter always was unreliable. He denied our Lord, you know, but what else would you expect from a Galilean? As they say, nothing good can come from Nazareth. No— Jesus was born in Bethlehem; that makes all the difference. He came from a good family.

Peter never understood how one thing leads to another. You have to stay true to the Faith, and keep the traditions,  or you can end up who knows where. Take that Aeneas incident, for example. Another one of those Greeks. I know they've been circumcised and all, but the leopard never changes its spots, as the scroll of Jeremiah1 tells us. And that's where it starts to go wrong because then— after that, Peter's off to Joppa, always impetuous, never thinking it through.

Did it never occur to him what that the fact that half the widows in the town called that woman Dorcas actually means? I've heard people suggest she was Greek, too. And to call her a disciple!? Even the women at the cross are not called that. Anyway— Greeks again, and he's raising her from the dead. What about all the good orthodox Jewish Christians who missed out; was she the only one who died that day? It's not a small city, you know.

One thing really does lead to another: it all went to his head, and he went and stayed with that stinking Simon the tanner. Well, both Simons stink. Some upstart Roman Centurion thought he had a vision from God— all those rumours from Lydda andJoppa, I suppose— and sent to ask for Peter... who actually gave this fantasy credence, and went off to Caesarea... Read on >>>>

This post is an excerpt from the post Be Careful How you Imagine your world.  The excerpt attempts to describe the effect our worldview has upon what we can see.

The post begins with a reflection upon the text of Acts 9:36-43...

I began here:

I let this text interview me: "Why are you so sceptical?" it asked. Well, there was an auntie who was always getting cured, but never was. There were always rumours of people raised from the dead on remote Indonesian islands but never of people sitting up after prayer in a funeral home. (It is clear that Tabitha was 'proper dead,' for they had washed her and laid her out.) We know this sort of event doesn't happen in real life. And I know I hear claims of such events in gatherings where people's interpretations of other things are equally... well... hopeful, and... unlikely.

Do we think the church at the time was any less sceptical than we are? In the tribal society where I once lived, a man had died, his clothes were burned, and then he sat up among the mourners and asked for his hat.  The town was alive with jokes about people being raised from the dead, because everyone knew he had not been 'proper dead.' (I shall return to this story.)

What if the stories of Acts have a purpose other than requiring literal belief from us; what if our categories about 'real,' 'fact,' and 'fiction,' simply do not fit the world of the writer?

There is an immediate feeling in much church culture that I am trying to wiggle out of the plain meaning of the text. This is not so. Rather, I think many of us fail to understand, let alone address, just how much our world view constrains what we see, how we interpret things, and even the questions we ask. I had an extended footnote at the end of the post which sought to address this, a little.

I struggle to put into simple words what I am talking about here.  It's a bit like trying to communicate to a  world in which there are only oranges, what it is like to eat an apple.... Read on >>>>

In the ninth chapter of Luke's second book The Acts of the Apostles, Peter is travelling. First he meets Aeneas. Aeneas is paralysed. And the story of Aeneas is a sort of echo of a story in Luke's first book, the one we call The Gospel of Luke. In that Gospel there is this place where Jesus heals a paralysed man let down through the roof by his friends.  That story says something like "take up your bed and walk," rather similar to Peter's words to Aeneas. Luke is telling us that Peter is walking in the footsteps of Jesus. (Luke 5:17-26)

In fact, in Acts 3, Peter has already healed someone who cannot walk: He says to the lame man near the temple: ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’

So why does Luke have another healing of someone who can't walk? Well, Peter is now a long way from the temple and Aeneas is a Greek name.  When people heard the story of Aeneas, they would think, "He was Greek," just as you might think "He's Muslim," if I talk about my friend Hussain.

Aeneas is probably a proselyte, which means he has converted to Judaism. He is officially a Jew, you might say, but just like some people keep calling one of my friends who has Australian citizenship a Pommie, Aeneas would know what it is to still be second class in the eyes of many people. But Peter and (therefore) Jesus are saying, there is no second class. God's healing and Jesus' resurrection is for Aeneas, too.

In fact... the Jewish man outside the temple was χωλὸς, which means lame, or missing a foot. Aeneas was παραλελυμένος, which is a good deal worse: he was paralysed. The greater miracle is done for the person who is even more of an outsider!

And then there is Tabitha. She has her Jewish name, Tabitha, and her Greek name: Dorcas. She gets called both in the story, and that's a signal to us that she had a lot to do with people who were culturally Greek rather than Jewish.  This means that the 'proper people' in the synagogue would think she wasn't really doing the right thing spending so much time with 'those Greeks,' even though she was devoted to good works and acts of charity. But Luke calls her a disciple. She's the only woman called a disciple of Jesus in the whole New Testament. And she is raised from the dead. "Get up," said Peter. 

And you might notice that Tabitha's story sounds a lot like the story where Jesus raises a little girl from the dead. In that story, Jesus says Talitha get up. Peter says Tabitha, get up. That might be a coincidence, or it might be Luke's version of a 'dad joke,' but either way, Peter is walking in the footsteps of Jesus. (Mark 5:21-43)

Then... Peter goes and stays with Simon the tanner. Now tanneries stink, and so did the tanners... Read on >>>>

I let this text interview me: "Why are you so sceptical?" it asked. Well, there was an auntie who was always getting cured, but never was. There were always rumours of people raised from the dead on remote Indonesian islands but never of people sitting up after prayer in a funeral home. (It is clear that Tabitha was 'proper dead,' for they had washed her and laid her out.) We know this sort of event doesn't happen in real life. And I know I hear claims of such events in gatherings where people's interpretations of other things are equally well... hopeful, and... unlikely.

Do we think the church at the time was any less sceptical than we are? In the tribal society where I once lived, a man had died, his clothes were burned, and then he sat up among the mourners and asked for his hat. The town was alive with jokes about people being raised from the dead, because everyone knew he had not been 'proper dead.' (I shall return to this story.)

What if the stories of Acts have a purpose other than requiring literal belief from us? What if they mean to show us that in the new age of the resurrection, God breaks in to our reality in unexpected and surprising ways? ... Read on >>>>

You can listen to this post here.

There was a rumour that the disciple whom Jesus loved would not die. What people meant was that Jesus would return before this disciple died. The disciple whom Jesus loved is unnamed, but is often understood to be the author of the Gospel of John. And in the last carefully added on chapter of John's gospel, the disciple whom Jesus loved rubbed out the rumour that he would not die before Jesus came. He says

the rumour spread in the community [Gk among the brothers] that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to [Peter] that [the disciple whom Jesus loved] would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’

Why is this story here? (And why, I wonder, does the lectionary leave it off today's reading when it so clearly a part of the story of Chapter 21?)

Here is a way of seeing Chapter 20 and 21 in John. It allows us to see the additional chapter as a very finely crafted addition and final word rather than it seeming like a rather crude "add on." In the post from which I quote below I noted that Mark's alternate endings look a bit like "the khaki drill patch a single man crudely hand stitches over the cuff of his denim jeans, where they have frayed and torn," but that this last chapter in John is actually "an add on with an invisible mend. This is no crude patch covering a (perceived?) hole in the story. Threads of the earlier part of the gospel are finely darned through the fabric of the patch." I asked, "Is it a patch?"

And my answer was that it is not a patch over a hole, it is an addendum drawn from the wisdom of a long life.

John comes to the first end of the Gospel at Chapter 20:30-31, and then he asks

How shall we now live, since the Lord has still not come?

In our bibles today, we'd put this in as a chapter heading in bold. And this is John's answer to his question...

and from later in the text...

Perhaps the Beloved Disciple would write this to us today: If you trust in rumours about the coming of the Christ to preserve your soul and protect you, it will be for you a more bitter day than for most when the coming climate catastrophe drags us all into a place where we not want to go. Trust the Christ you meet when you meet, not some rumour from someone who cannot know. No person knows how this world ends.... Read on >>>>

This Sunday is designated as a Break the Silence Sunday within our Synod. Hence this sermon, for which it seems the story of Thomas is very pertinent. From the text:

Thomas said, "I will not believe, I will not trust, unless I can place my hand in the open wounds!"

And in the famous painting by Caravaggio, Thomas places his finger — he points to — he places his hand inside the wound.  And yet— look at the copy— he cannot bring himself to look! This is something so terrible that Jesus has to guide his hand! Caravaggio understood that Jesus will guide us into the places that we cannot bear even to look....

The thing about Crucifixion is that we always lie about it a little... it is just too horrible. Crucifixion was developed into a brutal science by the Roman Empire; it was designed to cause the maximum amount of pain. The whole process was a prolonged humiliation and death by torture. It was meant to deter those who saw it from opposing the empire. It was an instrument of terror.

It was also sexual assault...

We know this. We know what nakedness and death means. When a body is found naked, we know that whatever the details, this involved sexual assault. We have rarely been able to resist placing a little loin cloth on depictions of Jesus on the cross; a part of us knows that the cross is about sexual humiliation.... Read on >>>>

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