Lake Hart, SA, 2016

One Man's Web

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 >>>>

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 >>>>

As an Australian male the whole loving God thing doesn’t quite gel. We don’t get gushy about feelings. Passionate singing, and re-singing, of choruses about love of God, is disturbing of the digestion.  It feels fake.... 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.

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