The Jump Up, near Itjinpiri in the Pitjantjatjara Lands

One Man's Web

In Chapter 8 of Mark, Peter finally gets it: You are the Messiah! 

And from then on, Jesus is teaching the disciples what it means to be Messiah, and what it means to follow the Messiah into the kingdom of God.

In the teaching of last week's reading, he took a child in his arms, as a symbol of God's love for all of us. The child epitomises the weak, the powerless, and the defenceless. And what Jesus said to the disciples, who were all about who was the greatest; who was in charge; who understood God— what he said was that, in God's eyes, to be great, to be a leader, to be like God and to welcome God… is to welcome the child and protect the child—and any person who is in the place of the child— above all others.

If the way we are living our lives as Christians is not doing this, then we are not great. We are not living as Christ called us to live. God forgives all things, but that does not change the fact that when we do not welcome the child, and put the child first, we are not living the life of the kingdom. Instead, we... are separating ourselves from God.

Now this week, Jesus really doubles down on this; he emphasises it all over again. It's the same conversation, and the child is still there in his arms, for he talks about "one of these little ones." 

But look how the little ones are caused to stumble by the disciples!  The disciples saw someone healing just like Jesus did, and they told them to stop because they were not "following us." It's as if I said Elliot and the church up the street should stop being church because they don't belong to us! Or one of you saying that Rod's congregation should stop doing what they are doing because they don't belong to the Uniting Church... Read on >>>>

20180930-fence1 You can listen here.

My friend "John" must have muttered something about how some dynamite would help, for one of the Aboriginal men working with him said, "We have plenty!" And John was led to a steel magazine, long forgotten by European staff, built into the rock of the hill above the old mission house. He told me, "If that lot had ever gone up, nothing of the house would have been left."

The dynamite was old and sweating, which means it was dangerously unstable. John carried the case down the hill and loaded it onto the community truck as far back from the cabin as was possible— knowing, as we all did, that in the event of an explosion that would make no difference at all to his survival. He began a sweat drenched crawl in bottom gear over the rocky track up to the town dump where, in an open space, he set the case off. We marvelled at the echoes which came back from the surrounding hills and ranges for almost a minute! ... Read on >>>>

I travelled from Elizabeth across to Bright, hoping to travel up through the snow and across to Bairnsdale. Not everything went according to plan! I did this trip using a trailer, and have pretty much decided I'm over trailers. Read on >>>

It's still about bread... (You can listen to this here.)

In Mark 7, I imagine the Pharisees are gathered around Jesus in the market place; after all, in the previous few lines it says,

56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:56) (I owe this observation to Elizabeth Webb.)

The word for gathered is  (συνάγονται) which has the same root as the word for synagogue, (συναγωγῇ) but these are people from Jerusalem who look askance at the loose practices of the provinces. So, Jesus is healing in the market place, and it is there that they attack him. They seek to correct and purify his synagogues— his gatherings.

This story (or pericope) follows on from the feeding earlier in Mark Chapter 6:30-44,  and follows our weeks long diversion by the Lectionary into the Gospel of John,  where we looked at Communion, at fully eating what Jesus gives us— eating him whole and gnawing on the bones, as it were. What is translated in the NRSV of Mark 7:2 as "eating with defiled hands," is actually not simply the word eating. The text says: eating of the bread,  (ἐσθίουσιν ⸃ τοὺς ἄρτους ) which may simply be an idiomatic way of saying eating, but the word bread is there in the text, nonetheless.

How will we eat the Eucharist— the Bread? Will we eat with properly washed hands? Understand: this is not about the minister using hand-wash before breaking the bread of the Eucharist, which is wise hygiene. This is about proper purity, proper piety:  Will we eat Communion the right way? What is the right way? Who will tell us; who will decide for us? … Read on >>>>

Listen here

It's an Australian sermon, so for folks elsewhere, it will help to know that a tradie is a trades-person. And to know that Bill Shorten is the Leader of the Opposition, often laughed as a bit of a lame duck, who is currently enjoying the spectacle of the Government falling over each other to destroy themselves— a "new" Prime Minister was been elected as I wrote this sermon. I'll let you use the internet to understand Steven Bradbury and that august Australian journal The Betoota Advocate.

Anyway, the sermon for John 6:56-71

As I pushed up the pin to lock the hall doors on Wednesday, I noticed that there is a stain in the ceiling. Let's imagine that we look at it after church this morning, and we decide it's a new stain.

That means only one thing.

We can argue and discuss about where things might be broken, or when it happened— all that— but that stain means there is a hole in the roof, somewhere.

If there is a stain in the ceiling, there is a hole in the roof. There is a leak.

I want to say— and you can talk to me about this over lunch— that when a congregation has enemies, when a congregation has us and them somewhere in its thinking, whether it's about us and them within us, or us and them where the themare outside, then there is a leak. And no matter how we look at it, no matter how we argue it, or try to describe it, that leak always leads back to violence against other people. The great leak in the human roof, what we call original sin, always has to do with violence. (Violence is the sign of that sin.)

So if the stains I saw are new, we'll have to get a tradie up in the ceiling.

After a while he comes down from above us, and says, "Yep there's a hole alright, we'll have to fix it." ... Read on >>>>

from the post:

Whoever eats the bread from heaven, the bread which is Jesus' sarx (flesh) will live forever, says Jesus. When people are finding it hard to hear this (it's translated as accept this) Jesus asks, "What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?" (6:63) In other words, the real scandal around flesh is not that Jesus is the real manna/bread from heaven instead of Moses' manna/bread.  The real scandal is that Jesus— flesh— will ascend to heaven. And not only that— heaven is where he was before! God the Word comes to us in flesh! The NRSV hides a devastating pun:  the Gospel which begins with "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," now says in verse sixty, about all this flesh, "This Word (ὁ λόγος) is difficult, who can hear it?" (This is deliberate; verse 68 uses a different word for the words of eternal life.) ... Read on >>>>

As a nation... Israel had a meal. A lamb was sacrificed and eaten by each family. They remembered the time of the escape from slavery in Egypt when the blood of the lamb was smeared on the doorposts and the lintels, and the Destroyer passed over the houses of the Hebrew people. And, at last, Pharaoh let them go. Eating the Passover was a part of being Hebrew, a part of being Jesus' people, a way of remembering who they were. It defined them.

And we might say to a visitor here, that something similar happens with Communion. It's related. But it's not just a remembering of that first Passover. When we eat the bread, it remembers Jesus. Living like Jesus, following Jesus, is what gives us life. Jesus died for us, and this means that death passes over us— it means death cannot touch us. We are free of the fear of death. Yes, we die, but death does not have the last word.  This meal defines us.

And then...  along comes John.

John, in the reading we have heard today, uses truly offensive language. I'm not sure we can appreciate just how offensive it must have sounded in its time.

In The Gospel of Luke (22), where Jesus says this is my body, Luke uses the word soma. John says flesh— sarx,  which is rather more like saying, "This is my meat."... Read on >>>>

"Meet the Ferrones... this everyday Australian family has set out on an extraordinary time travelling adventure." So begins each decade of Back in Time for Dinneran infotainment-reality-TV-cooking-show blend which, nonetheless, displays moments of startling humanity. In the 1990's episode, the family are the guests of Chef Michael Tai, whose own family were refugees from Vietnam.

Michael takes Olivia, a delightfully unfiltered ten year old, to choose a fish, which he nets for her from the restaurant tank. She returns to the table, full of glee: "I got to pick a fish! I decided I would name it Jeff!" And then Jeff comes to the table, neatly sliced. "I'd like to take a moment to say a few words about our friend Jeff who sacrificed his life for our dining pleasure," says Mum Carol, discomforted, yet inured to life as we live it. (25:50 minutes in. A very small and poor quality clip)

But Olivia is horrified. Deeply shocked. Unable to laugh off the horror of what has been done. The family watch as Michael spoons the fish into the soup— "He'll taste delicious!" someone cries. No one notices Olivia's whimper, or sees the trauma on her face, and the hands over her ears: Horror.

What is our Olivia moment? When do we see; when do our faces contort in grief and horror at what we have done? Life all comes together for Olivia at that moment; this is revelation... Read on >>>>

and all the men and women eating bread... (Shakespeare, mostly)

From Max's funeral:

A while back, Max said to me that he had realised a few nights previously that this was the night he would die. He had felt terribly ill—the worst he had been, so he got up, wrote some messages on the little whiteboard in his room in the nursing-home and went back to bed, and waited.

"In the morning," he said, with that classic Max smile, "I realised I was still here, so I got up and rubbed out the whiteboard, and got ready for breakfast."  Something about death had lost its power over him.

You can listen to this sermon here.

Gospel: John 6:35-51

It says that when Jesus fed the people in the wilderness, the Passover was near. (6:4) And now, at the end of our reading today, we hear that, "Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." (6:51)

We have a mixed metaphor, if you like; meat and bread. Way back in Exodus, Moses gave people the word from God that whoever killed the lamb, and spread its blood upon the door posts and the lintel of the house, and ate its flesh, would have the angel of death pass-over... their house, and their first born child would not die. (Exodus 12) So eat of the Passover lamb and you will not die, death will not touch you. And Jesus says we can eat of the bread which comes down from heaven and not die. (6:50) And the bread from heaven is his flesh. (51)

So, of course, if you take this literally, somehow the bread on the table today turns into his body, and then we are literally eating him. It's no wonder that there were accusations of cannibalism made about the church!

Or are we being invited to step into a metaphor? ... Read on >>>>

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