Landscape from Young, NSW 2011

One Man's Web

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

This is the Big Picture. Everything else is subordinate. Everything else is incidental. We live in “the everything else;” there is no choice. But if we let that “else” become everything , we close our eyes to the light that shines in the darkness.

I have plenty of else about which I can worry. Managing to earn enough to pay the bills, and yet still being able to stay in my very part-time congregation has almost swamped me in the past month. The congregation is on the edge of something big, so I could do without the distraction of too little money. We have family issues to manage, like everyone, and they could do without other distractions, too. And then... there is Christmas; what a scheduling blessing that one of the three traditions sharing our property celebrates Christmas on January 6! All this is just my congregation; my wife has Christmas to manage in her congregation, too.

We all live in the everything else. Sometimes it rises up and we feel swamped and overwhelmed. At other times we are happily distracted by it, focussed on the tasks in front of us; they can be enjoyable and fulfilling. In either case, it is easy to forget that “everything else” is not The Big Picture.... Read on >>>>

Back in the late seventies a bloke called Jim Punton appeared out of the desert at Ernabella, and came to our bible study one night. I'd never heard of him, and have no idea how he arrived there, 300 miles from the nearest town.

Jim was “on a roll” that evening, and delighted us with a list of earthy bits of scripture sanitised by our translators. “Perhaps your God has gone to the toilet,” teased Elijah on Mt. Carmel (in broad Scottish, to boot!)

Jim also said that the verses in Mark 1:2-3 do not refer to John the Baptist. The grammar and the style of the time, imply that the phrase “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,” refers back to these words: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.The Isaiah 40 prophecy (which actually is quilted together with Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1 to make its own image) refers not to John the Baptist, but to Jesus.... Read on >>>>

In which I talk to the atheists within me.

Christianity is no different from many other religions and philosophies, and Christians are no different from other people. We all face the same basic problem, which is to work out who we are, why we are here, and what on earth the world is about. We all have to deal with the unpleasant fact that we will die.

Christianity is one more philosophy, one more set of stories and ideas trying to make sense of the inexplicable mystery of our existence.  It does not make much difference whether we explain this mystery with the hypothesis of a God, or whether we say it is all somewhere combination of chemicals that quite easily may not have happened. We are all trying to make sense of ourselves and the world.

In the end, no one can tell us the answer to these questions. No one actually knows; there is no formula whereby we can reliably demonstrate what life means. There is no repeatable experiment. We have to make up our mind, and our life, on the way through.

My observation is that there are a few folk who suggest life and existence is all chance and chemicals. There is no meaning.  There is no purpose. I don’t know how people can consistently live with that idea. When I get to feeling like that might be the truth, I still determine that I will create some meaning. I will make a purpose. Why else keep going?

The big ideological divide in life seems to be between those who decide life is all about them, and those who seek the common good. This decision cuts across all the religions (or non religions) that we espouse.... Read on >>>>

What does it mean when we say Jesus is coming back?

Do we literally expect that one day we will literally see the  son of man coming in clouds. Will he arrive floating through the air, sitting on his throne, ready to set the poor free from oppression? (That’s what that Coming is about, really. It’s for freedom, not judgement.)

Will he replant a kind of Garden of Eden, where life is full and good, and is how it should be for all people, and for the planet itself?

The thing is, he has not come back like this. Not if we are hoping for a literal interpretation of that story. Truth to tell, many of us don’t think he will. He’s had plenty of time.

We’ve decided maybe the story means something else. Maybe when the church looked with all its insights into how God will finally put things into place on earth; well, maybe we got it wrong. We misunderstood. Some folk, of course, think the whole idea is just rubbish. Jesus is dead and gone, they say.

So does it mean something else, this story? Does the idea of Jesus coming back still talk to us? Does God have a plan somewhere?... Read on >>>>

In central Australia we discovered a remote narrow gorge, filled with water, and began to swim up. So narrow is this place, that sometimes you cannot swim breaststroke, because your hands drag against the rock on each side. We watched with more than a little fear as we paused in a small opening of the walls. While we rested on the rocks on one side of a chamber the size of a lounge room, a snake swam downstream on the other side. Keep alert!

But our fascination drew us on up the gorge until I noticed that the sky, that high, narrow strip of outback blue visible beyond the sheer hundred foot walls, was suddenly hidden by heavy cloud. Keep alert! Stay awake!

We had so little perspective, just a few feet of sky. Was it a passing cloud, or the warning of a storm? If it were to rain, out here in the desert, even a few millimetres would have us washed away in an un-survivable torrent of water, rising metres in moments.

We swam downstream for our lives.... Read on >>>>

This trip was an attempt at 600km in 30 hours, which for my age and condition was always ambitious.  In the event I covered 566km in 33.3 hours. Riding time covered that distance in 26 hours. I had estimated a 600km loop, and the actual distance came up short.  I decided not to ride an extra 34 km  at the end, which indicates how tired I was!  Read on >>>>

When he was three years old, Mingkuri remembered his manners. He was standing at the farm, chewing with relish on a piece of kangaroo tail, as we men discussed some issue to do with the grapes. As I glanced at Mingkuri he started. “Oh... Andrew,” he said. “Would you like something to eat?,” and offered me the thoroughly gnawed tail. I thanked him, and said I was fine!

On that day, Mingkuri stepped among the sheep. Whatever extra good he does in the world is a bonus. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Is it this simple? If we do it to just one of these? There is no listing of a threshold beyond that. No three a week for five years. Just one... Read on >>>>

There is more than one God in the New Testament. Just as you or I imagine God differently, whatever the Reality, so do the various authors of that book. I have followed different Gods during my attempts at being a disciple. There was a time when the hard God described by Matthew, especially in chapter 25, was the one I imagined. That God scared me into the Faith. I read Matthew, and realised that if this was true, I was on the wrong side! That was my first conversion.

But Matthew and the other writers in the book have converted me in other ways. I can no longer make sense of a god who consigns people to outer darkness (25:30) and eternal punishment. (25:46) Such a god contradicts the God of love and forgiveness that I have begun to imagine from a wider reading of the same book.

So what am I to make of Matthew? Matthew himself has been a part of that wider reading, and re-reading, which has taught me about mercy.  Do I simply conclude that this bit (chapter 25) is wrong, and skip over it? Do I treat it as a kind of Leviticus, which we mostly, but rarely, read for background? Or do I look for some other truth, beyond outer darkness, in the parables of this  chapter?.... Read on >>>>

Great walls of regrets can slowly push in on us, just as impenetrable as that closed door which has a voice behind it saying, “I do not know you.” I fear ending up like this more than I fear death itself.... Read on >>>>

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