Landscape from Young, NSW 2011

One Man's Web

I am damaged goods. I don’t mean the shonky knees and the crook back. I mean 12 years of school where, whatever the objective facts, what I remember and have ingrained in me, is a profound sense of exclusion and alienation. To be on the outside, and to be excluded; treated as a tax collector and a gentile, causes grievous injury. It scars us. It marks us for life, and habituates unhealthy responses which take a lifetime to manage and begin to overcome.

My salvation was my parents, and the church. At the church, simply by its acceptance and fellowship, I was put back together each week. Being allowed to belong, and pick up the hymnbooks after church, saved me... Read on >>>>

Julie Clawson at onehandclapping:

Earlier this summer I attended a church service where the pastor, a man struggling with what appears to be his final bout with cancer, preached about the hope that Jesus promises to those who trust in him. After describing the returning Jesus brandishing a sword and dripping with the blood of all our vanquished enemies, he invited the audience to share what they saw as the hope that this Jesus promises. The responses ranged from no cancer, to no pain, to no worries about paying the bills, to the promise of an upgraded body – all of course in heaven someday after we die. The congregation was encouraged to find contentment in the present from the possibility of realizing these promises someday. Our souls are what matter; the body just has to endure until our souls reach heaven. No mention of help with how to pay this month’s rent or what it means for a cancer-ridden body to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, just the spiritual promise that someday all will be well.... Read on >>>>

I decided I would be a conscientious objector. The Vietnam War was simply wrong at every level. I never had to make a stand because of the change in government in Australia, and our withdrawal from the war. Two of my friends, a few years older, had to go through the process. One was granted status as a conscientious objector. The other was gaoled. There is something terribly unfair about all this; a roll of the dice based on a birthday, and the prejudices of a tribunal.

Jesus says nothing about fairness. He simply says “...those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) ... Read on >>>>

In the gospel of Mark, Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah (8:29) is a turning point in the gospel. Finally people have understood! From that point Jesus begins to teach people what Messiah actually means.

Matthew uses the story of Peter’s confession in a different way. In Matthew people have already named Jesus as Son of God (14:33). Peter is affirming what has already been said, rather than making the insightBill Loader says

...instead of the passage celebrating a turning point in recognising who Jesus is, as in Mark, it has become in Matthew a celebration of what the church is.

The lectionary divides Matthew 16:13-28 into two weeks, which is quite reasonable; the material in each section (13-20, and 21-28) is substantial! However, we must read what Matthew is saying about Peter and the Church in the light of next week’s reading. There we see that to be Messiah is to suffer, and most importantly, that

... If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it....

The verses set for next week act as an enormous corrective to any misplaced pride and glory we may feel as a church. Matthew is sketching out a critical balance of power and authority which will not be properly appreciated without the later verses... Read on >>>>

Plugging up the Hills’ Face on my bike tonight, I saw a small mob of sheep being chased by black and white. Despite the undergrowth interrupting my view, it was fairly obvious that a Border Collie was out exercising the sheep, which is a serious issue. I began calculating which was the most likely small holding to be the sheep’s owner, so I could alert them to the situation. Too much attention from the Collie could lead to the sheep dying from exhaustion, or even being savaged.

As I cleared a patch of roadside trees, and came closer, I realised I was completely wrong. That black and white flash I had seen through the wattles and weeds was no dog; it was a Billie Goat.

Billie was trotting back across the paddock to his castle, which is a high patch of dirt that seems to have once upon a time been an embankment for a trail bike track. He had been removing the sheep from a second embankment at another end of the old track.

It seems that the sheep are not allowed in the high places in this paddock.  They belong to King Billie.

Unfortunately for King Billie, the old trail bike track was triangular. As he returned to his favourite high point, the home castle, at the top end  of the paddock, a group of  the sheep purposefully climbed up on the third embankment, turned around, and stood looking at him. The challenge was unmistakable.  I realised that it is not the sheep who are being harassed, but the goat!  Archive

Bishop Pierre Whalon:  Propping up my own sense of self-importance as an invisible big kahuna speaker, I'd like to tell why I am not an atheist. I have already addressed some of the features of what I call "atheism lite versus Christianity lite." This concerns many people's claims against Christianity, which are in fact negations of heresies. Too many atheists seem to function with a pubescent version of Christianity.

On the other hand, speaking of "lite," I must admit that some Christians really embarrass me.... Read on >>>>

Also here.

I remember my shock as a teenager, when the minister’s wife snapped at him. I was horrified. How could she? Worse was to follow; he was unmistakeably cross back at her.

My heroes turned into ordinary people. They were really human. I had been projecting something else onto them.

I love this reading in Matthew, because here, at last, Jesus is fully human.

There is so much making of Jesus into a God who walked on earth, a God who is above anything I could ever be. He becomes a god-man who could never have been real, and an impossible act to follow.... Read on >>>>

The trouble was that while I was going faster I started having clothing problems. I wasn't into spandex or anything, but on my bike I couldn't comfortably ride to work in long pants, dress shoes or a suit coat. So I biked to work in shorts during warm months and windsuits in cold months. Either way, I was coming to school in very casual attire. For the most part I got away with this, but it was an object of discussion on campus. My teaching in shorts and a t-shirt was a bit scandalous to some....Richard Beck, Read on >>>>

Do I dare to believe that I might walk on water?

Matthew Chapter 14 seems to stand as a whole.

In the beginning we see the world of Herod Antipas’ court; the world as it is now. This is the world of political power and obligation, with its own peculiar code of honour. In this place it is right to display your stepdaughter’s dancing to a group of inebriated men, and to flaunt your power by offering “whatever she might ask” as reward. (Even to half your kingdom, in Mark 6.) In this world of Herod, of course the life of a man is not worth half a kingdom. The life of a man is not even enough payment for the public embarrassment caused by a scheming wife. Pride, money, and appearances are everything. Such is the freedom of the rich. And such is the world of today’s power. (14:1-12)

In contrast to this world we see the promise of the kingdom of heaven. Everyone is included. Even in a desert place there is food for all, and food left over. The sick are healed. Jesus, whom this chapter tells us is the Son of God (33) looks upon the people with compassion, not as subjects. Remember that “Son of God” is both a religious and political claim: by positioning the story here, Matthew presents the feeding of 5,000 men as a direct counter claim to the kingdom of Herod. He shows us the feast of Jesus; the world as it should be, and as it will be. (14:13-21 See last week)

Then we come to the reading for this week. (14:22-33)... Read on >>>>

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