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 >>>>
This Great Prayerof Thanksgiving was written for this Trinity sermon
The Great Prayer
At the Beginning.... ... ...
something... exploded into being
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 >>>>
A friend of mine has a list of 21 words she no longer uses in sermons. These words are some of the (once) most important words in the Christian faith. Her list includes: sin, justification, sanctification, gospel. Last time I talked to her, this Lutheran was even thinking of adding the word "grace" to the list.
Why does she do this? For one thing, some of the words--justification, sanctification--make a modern person's eyes glaze over. The last person to resonate to the word "sanctification" died decades, if not centuries, ago. Secondly, even the words people think they understand--sin, gospel--don't mean what many think they mean. Says Presbyterian John Schuck:
I find much of our modern theological work little more than dealing in antiquities. The Trinity, the person of Christ, the sacraments, the authority of the Bible, eschatology, and so forth were invented in the pre-modern era and are best suited for that time period.
This does not mean that we are smarter or more hip than the people who invented these ideas. We simply have changed. Trying to retrofit our belief systems to a modern understanding of the Universe, Earth, and Earth's inhabitants turns theologians and pastors into pawn brokers for ancient religious relics that fewer and fewer people embrace...
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!