Landscape from Young, NSW 2011

One Man's Web

After three weeks sick leave, it appears I will be able to return to my parishes next week. I am ambivalent about this, and feeling very disconnected. We say such fine things about the Kingdom of Heaven; how in the end, all that God desires for Earth and for the Universe will be brought into being. The leopard will lie down with the lamb. And in the meantime, in the now but not yet, we of the church are people of God, the embodiment of Christ. We are where the Kingdom is beginning to take shape; it is among us.

Yet church too often reminds me of a suburb where I once stayed. All the houses were timber framed galvanised iron; built in poverty. In many cases, in an attempt to make these houses look like something they were not, people had clad the front with faux brick or stone; pressed steel sheets that supposedly look like brick. You nail it over the front of the house. So often the church feels like that. We put up this theological cladding pretending to be something we are not. We have aspirations to Kingdom, but we look like a fake... Read on >>>>

Thanks to Jos and Duketown at the CMSMadeSimple forums I have a nice piece of code to provide random images with titles on the bottom left of the page. Thanks guys!

When I was a young  teenager the largest paddock on the farm was overrun with thistles. They grew thick as a crop, about 2 foot 6 tall, after a summer rain. You could not walk through them without being shred round the shins and thighs.

I thought we were very lucky this had happened after the harvest.  I was beginning to understand the problem of weeds and, very clearly, we had a problem. I suspect I had pleasant anticipations of burning off the paddock, always good fun, to rid ourselves of the weeds.

Instead, Dad produced an enormous length of railway iron... Read on >>>>

Coming home the other night, a car squeezed off Main North Road into a service station. They had a little trouble getting in, because a woman coming out was taking up more than her share of the drive way. She yelled abuse at the driver coming in. For a moment I saw the whites of her eyes, bared teeth, and a snarling face. With her henna gone wrong hair dye, she looked very like our big orange Norwegian Forest cat, when he is snarling at the other cat, and stealing her food.

I can’t point the finger here. We once had an aggressive client who took a swing at me at the church office. I blocked it. He took another swing. I blocked that. On the third swing I lost it. I took him down. There are ways to do that. I could have grabbed him and spun him round, tripped him over my foot, and been reasonably gentle about it. I took the fast route. I was very close to beating the crap out of him.

We are animals. According to common wisdom, we have 98% of the same genetic material as chimpanzees. The defensive reflexes which meant that man could not successfully punch me, are the requirements for animal survival in the wild. Cats have them. Dogs have them. Chimps have them.  We came from the wild, and we have them. But the very adrenalin that lets us destroy the enemy, or flee to safety, is also the thing that dehumanises us when we lose control of it.

What makes us human, and more human, is our ability to cultivate civility. The acme of civility is compassion; the ability to feel with. Our compassion is ultimately what makes us human. What terrifies us about the psychopath, is their inability to form human attachments; that is, be compassionate. The restraints of civility and compassion which normally protect us from each other, do not apply when we meet such a person.... Read on >>>>

A freshly ploughed winter paddock looks immaculate. The lines of the scarifier quilt the paddock in rich red browns which stand out against the green borders. So delicate is this patterning, and so sweet smelling, that long ago my dear Auntie Is stood at the edge of the paddock, and waved frantically to my Dad, far away in the middle. Newly married town girl that she was, Auntie didn’t know that you could drive over the fallow. She thought she might damage the ploughing if she drove across to  him!

The romance of the country hides highly refined and calculated agricultural practice. The scarifier, now being superseded by minimum tillage equipment, slices off any roots below the soil surface and buries the weeds  as the soil is turned over. Later a combine, or seeder, will precisely place the seed at the recommended depth in the soil, along with fertiliser.  And the crop will grow... Read on >>>>

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 >>>>

As I work towards this Sunday, which is a Communion Sunday in my congregation, I’m thinking of pain. I’m remembering being with a small congregation of persecuted people, who came to communion in a paradoxical mix of pain and joy. Joy was for being together, and sharing and finding something of God in their community. Pain was from knowing and living their status of outcast, even in much of the church, and for suffering persecution.

We do persecution well in our age; with technological expertise.  Facebook, SMS, and snide emails tear people apart with a savagery and effectiveness that exceeds a physical beating.

The energy required for determining who among the writers of such muck is simply sick, who is malicious, and who has a genuine complaint about someone in an organisation, is staggering. The pain caused to the recipients, and those to whom they are dear, is sometimes so severe that a straight out beating might feel preferable.... Read on >>>>

This Great Prayerof Thanksgiving was written for this  Trinity sermon

The Great Prayer
At the Beginning.... ... ...
something... exploded into being
star stuff 
far flung 
incomprehensible   distance
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 >>>>

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