Molong cloudset, NSW 2011

One Man's Web

Imagine standing at the base of Uluru. The sheer rock face is so high it is half the world. The silence is alive with feelings, with awe, with spirit. There is nothing to hear, and yet everything. Like thousands of Australians, going back over millennia, this place both belittles and embraces us. Silent contemplation is our only response. And then we hear it.

"Oh, come on, Tony. It’s too hot. This is boring. I’m getting sand in my shoes, and there are flies. Let’s go back to the motel. I need a drink. This is so boring."

And their discontent whinges its way past the same rock, through the same thick numinous aura which has arrested us, completely blind and untouched. How could you be at Uluru, and be so untouched?

It’s not just Uluru, of course. We can be on the coastal cliffs, in the rainforest, held by a gallery painting, in another world with a musician’s artistry— even in church!— and hear blind, bored discontent whinging its way past, oblivious to holiness.

Jesus said, “This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him or knows him.”.... Read on >>>>

Life really began to come together for me in Year 10. The school science teacher, who was also my class teacher, had a lot to do with this. He was vibrant, brash, and noisy. He treated us more as equals than students. He kept order by lobbing chalk at us with uncanny accuracy, and crashing a yardstick down on desks in a paradoxically good humoured way. He used the rabbits l shot for dissection classes. He introduced a bunch of us boys to bushwalking, which was a life changing experience.

At the end of the year, he was transferred back to Adelaide. I didn't know how to say goodbye. After 40 years I still remember him saying to me, "You'll be alright. You'll make it. You've got what it takes." It was an intimate moment, and a substantial balm to a deep grief I didn't really recognise.

In this chapter of John the disciples are feeling that grief. The person who has brought life together for them, is leaving. How will they go on? He tells them they have what it takes.... Read on >>>>

Jesus is preparing the disciples for the fact that he is leaving. John 14 is about life with God when Jesus is not there.

It’s really very simple, at one level. Jesus is the way to God. Jesus is the truth about God. You want life with God; Jesus is the answer. Just in case you don’t get it, Jesus says in verse 9 “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. Trust me.”

Well, if you were one of the disciples who knew Jesus, that might work. But I wasn’t, and I didn’t. Jesus sounded a lot like that invisible friend. And we all know invisible friends are not real. People who have invisible friends are either little children, or they have a little something wrong with them.

The problem was that I did have an invisible friend as a kid. And the whole Jesus – God – Church thing didn’t feel like that at all.  There was something there, something real,  in the whole Jesus – God – Church thing . Except... I couldn’t find Jesus. If a non believer made some crack about us Christians and our invisible friend, I wouldn’t bite, but I was always scared they might be right.

How could I meet Jesus?

It turns out, that I already have an invisible friend. Her name is Janet. I have no idea what she looks like. I couldn’t tell you how old she is give or take twenty years. She lives, apparently, in the United States of America. She’s a minister. She’s one of those ministers who moves around and does interim work, like me.  I have no idea where, in the USA, she actually is.... Read on >>>>

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. (Luke 2: 1-4)

Joseph was descended from the House of David. It makes sense to say he was “in David’s house.” He belonged to the family of David.

This is important to grasp, because many people know today’s text only from funeral services. The promise that “in my father’s house are many mansions,” will have been one of great comfort or, one more example of the crazy things the church believes. This latter view will be held by many Christians, as well as folk who are not Christian! Indeed, the text is often an insult to grieving believers, who cannot seriously believe it literally in our modern context. Presented literally it is pap provided to mop up a flood of loss.

There are no houses in this text. The immediate surface reading is misleading. To get to this conclusion, and go further, we need to remind ourselves of the nature of John's gospel.  We need to do this carefully when preaching, because many people long to be in one of those houses, (not realising that in John’s terms, perhaps they already are,) and yet we are going to say there is no house!

The nature of John is that he is almost never writing about the surface of things. We can read the first three (synoptic) gospels “on the surface,” as though they were in the genre of a contemporary newspaper article, and make at least some sense of them. (I sometimes think the ease with which we can read them in this way, is one of our major problems!)

By contrast, reading John on the surface leads to frustration and bewilderment.... Read on >>>>

The woman was thin and unkempt. Pain and starvation were etched upon her. Her eyes were almost dead, except that fear lurked in there. She was not someone in a survivor’s photo from Auschwitz, although she could have been. She was in my local shopping centre. She looked like a bruised and frightened sheep, immobilised on the back of a semi, unaware she was on the way to the slaughterhouse. I can't forget her. I can't explain how I am not her. And sometimes my fragility frightens me.

We are all born into a sheepfold. There is a place that is home; a place where we begin. For some of us it is safe, and almost idyllic. Others are born into a living hell. The thieves and the robbers have come over the walls, and are living off the sheep... Read on >>>>

I want life, and to have it abundantly. I am greedy for understanding. I thirst for knowing what life is about. I long for some peace, some satisfaction. I wish my hunger could be filled and that the emptiness, the uncertainty and the plain unknowing, and the absolute aloneness did not drag hollow and aching, eating me from the inside out. If only I were not so tired, and had some reasonable hopes of being content, of being filled, of being satisfied!

Jesus said the thieves and the bandits have climbed into the sheepfold, and that they have come to steal and kill and destroy. Sometimes it feels to me that all my good fortune and affluence does not matter. There have been few of the thieves, and few of the wolves, that invade other lives, but what good is that to me? The sheep fold is empty and sterile. I surely need a shepherd who will call me out, who will call my name and lead me to good pastures.

I simply want him to call my name.... Read on >>>>

The reading from Luke could be written like this:  While two of them were going home, Jesus appeared to them.

That is the key action of the event. That’s what happened. You don’t need 24 verses of the Bile to tell you. It only takes 11 words: While two of them were going home, Jesus appeared to them.

Everything else in the reading we heard then, falls into one of two categories. 
Either it adds meaning and significance to the event, 
or it is padding.

Padding is what kids in school do when they have to make up a word limit, but have nothing of substance to add to their essay.

The gospels are not padded documents. Every word is chosen.... Read on >>>>

According to my school English teachers the reading above could be written like this:  While two of them were going home, Jesus appeared to them.

That is the key action of the event. That’s what happened. Everything else falls into one of two categories. Either it adds meaning and significance to the event, or it is padding. Padding is that practice of students everywhere who have to make up a word limit, but have nothing of substance to add to their essay. It is supposed to be more subtle and less obvious to the teacher, than filling two pages by increasing the font size, or the margin width... Read on >>>>

To me, the “paschal mystery” of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the rabbi is an archetypal reminder about how, as science now teaches us, all things in the cosmos live, die and resurrect. Supernovas, galaxies, solar systems, planets, beings that inhabit our planet – we all have our time of existence and of passing out of existence. But we leave something behind for further generations and that constitutes resurrection... Read on >>>>

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