I remember the outrage when the town was flooded with apocalyptic Chick comics; hardline sectarian tracts. Our consternation was intriguing. As a friend said, “The thing is, we do believe there will be a judgement day! What is the problem?”
I think the problem came from two things. The stark nature of the comics, from their storylines to the style of their graphics, laid bare the harsh and arbitrary nature of popular Christian ideas about judgement day. In these comics, we were shown the brutality of what we believed, stripped of all its piety and justifications. It was confronting.
To our credit, we were also offended. We were revolted by the gloating, indeed the delight, of these comics in the suffering of those who were left behind, and going to hell and damnation.
At the end of Matthew we have a full chapter (24) on the destruction of the temple and the end of the age, leading into parables of judgement, (25) and ending in eternal punishment. (25:46) How do we approach this?... Read on >>>>
28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
I suspect these were among the first verses I ever underlined in a bible. They have an emotional power which is beyond anything I can analyse. I think it has to do with being burdened by the very fact of life, even as a child. There is the compulsion to excel, the demand to do right and good, and the struggle to make sense of life, despite its absurdity. Often, the only answer to all this, which is no answer, is to get up, keep going, and make the best of it. What else can you do? I get very tired....
Full of contradictory longings, I do not carry the yoke of life; I am bound into it! It is lashed onto my shoulders. I am now almost grafted into the wood of the yoke.... Read on >>>>
I have a problem. "They" tell me I have to love God and love Jesus. They sing songs of love in church and, to be honest, it doesn’t work for me. Some of those songs are soppy; they have an high “ick” factor; they are cringe worthy. It’s not just the hymns. When I listen to some preachers, I feel like I should have this close personal relationship with Jesus, where we talk during the day like the closest of friends. Or I pour my heart out to the Father who listens and loves me.
I’ve been a Christian for something like 35 years. I’ve spent my whole working life supporting the church in one way or another. I’ve studied, I’ve sacrificed, and I’ve copped some heavy flak for my commitment. But when I sit in church and listen to these preachers, or we sing the same saccharine chorus over and over, I am left cold.
This way of loving God just doesn’t work for me. It has no reality for me. I know that for many people, it makes sense. That’s great. But I’ve spent a lot of time in the past wondering if maybe I’m not a real Christian. I’ve wondered if I really, as the say, “know Jesus.” I’ve gone to charismatic and pentecostal churches, and I’ve prayed at length, and studied my bible in depth... and yet, somehow, it just doesn’t work. It does not ring true. If this is the only way to have faith in God, then I do not have it.... Read on >>>>
Jesus makes no friends in this reading. Certainly, his supporters enjoyed the repartee, but none questioners were won over. They were outsmarted, and their malice made clear, but Jesus was more hated at the end than at the beginning.
The story is a complete contrast to the modern day politicians who try to offend no one, and thus are captive to populism and its momentary sentiment. Anyone with an agenda can paralyse such politicians with a smart question like the one from the Pharisees and the Herodians.
It happens in church too, when we put being nice over being honest and true. We become powerless if we let our own Pharisees set the agenda rather than the Gospel set the agenda.
The story speaks to me on two levels. One is the level of the theological statement “Give to God what is God’s.” I am also fascinated by how the story may model how I manage occasions where someone’s true agenda is hidden under that pseudo piety which seems so hard to counter.... Read on >>>>
Hunter is a big melancholic boxer; a builder’s dog. The boss does second fix on houses, and Hunter supervises the site, alerting the boss to visitors, and mooching around thinking about the state of the world. Hunter worries. He stands with his head slightly on one side, worrying for you as an anxious old grandfather watches the children, fearful of their future. When I wheeled my bike out midweek, lycra clad, Hunter looked even more alarmed than usual.
On the other side of Siji and Bijil’s new house lives a neighbour who is a man of few words. His twelve year old son speaks even less. After school he sometimes kicks a football to himself, up and down the street.
In this last week, he and Hunter have become friends. They stand on the lawn, observing each other silently, contemplating the uncertainties of the world together. Occasionally the boy gives Hunter a stick to chew on, or pats him, but mostly they stand together, looking and thinking.
Hunter has moved onto the next house. I suppose we will soon hear the football bouncing on the bitumen again. [Archived]
When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add Up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.
- And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?
- Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.
We are all looking for The Kingdom of Heaven. We might not call it that. We might call it The Peace, or The Good Life. Whatever we call it; all folk want that Sunday afternoon in the spring sun just after the start of daylight saving, when all is right with the world. The afternoon goes on forever, all is safe, and life is good.
We long for an end to the arbitrary vicissitudes of life, and its injustices, with the constant uncertainty of tomorrow. Even an understanding of why things are so, would be better than this lonely struggle in a world which seems to promise so much, and yet serves up pain and terror on the toss of some invisible dice.
We are all looking for the Kingdom of Heaven.... Read on >>>>
“’Don’t make me leave.’” That’s what he said.”
“He wasn’t talking to you. He was talking to God. He didn’t want to go.”
“No! Vincent was like me, Booth. He was an atheist.”
“OK. Then he was talking to the Universe. He didn’t want to go. He wasn’t ready, Bones. He wanted to stay.”
“If there was a God then he would have let Vincent stay here with us.”
“That’s not how it works.” [Bones Series 6 Episode 22]
We may not be as hyper-rational as Bones (Dr Temperance Brennan) but we all have a fair idea of how the world should work. We know what should be right; what is correct. Perhaps as we face the end, we can simply surrender to the way of God and the contrariness of grace, and say, “That’s not how it works.” But while we are still cleaning the church kitchen, or managing the placement of hymn books, we have definite opinions about what is right and fair. This is our church, and our ideas naturally have precedence. That’s how it works... Read on >>>>
This site is about celebrating life. My own life is too busy; my work is almost designed to keep me from reflection and enjoyment. In the busyness and competition of life, it is hard, especially for men, to be honest about fears and feelings. All this works against celebrating and enjoying life except in a most shallow fashion. So here, I seek to be unbusy.
One Man's Web has grown haphazardly, reflecting the interests of friends and myself. You will find abandoned blind alleys, ideas we no longer adhere to, things we never believed but "hung out there" to see what would happen. There are areas where I am remain passionate, but can't keep up; the area on Australia's refugees is one.
If you find some enjoyment or challenge here, I am glad. Celebrate life!
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