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One Man's Web

Australian Country Landscape

There is a famous experiment in which folk are asked to watch a video clip where people wearing black or white shirts pass a basket ball between each other. The subjects are asked to count the number of times the ball gets passed from anyone wearing a white shirt to another white shirt person.

In the middle of all this a bloke wearing a gorilla suit walks between the players. He's on the court for nine seconds. He stops in the middle of the court, looks at the camera and beats his chest with his fist. Then he walks off.

After people said how many times they had counted the ball going from white to white, the experimenters asked about the gorilla. Fifty per cent- a full half of the folk taking part— didn't see the gorilla! (

We too often see what we are looking for and don't see what else is happening.  Read on >>>>

We didn't choose to be here, but for most of us the realisation that we will one day not be, is a matter of distress. So we begin the lifelong task of making sense of ourselves and preparing for our dying. We may only be obsessive enough about some activity, or drinking sufficiently, to keep the issue from the surface of our minds, but the questions never go away. Sometimes their haunting fills our lives.

A good religion is a discipline, or a path, which wider human experience has found helpful and productive for making sense of life, and for helping us become more fully human. It faces death. It is a path which seeks to uncover and be true to the reality in which we find ourselves. In this sense, someone of quite secular persuasions can be religious. They are serious and disciplined about being the most human they can be.... Read on >>>>

Recently nine people held a prayer vigil in the office of The Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison. Five of them were arrested. One of the nine writes

There are 1,138 children in immigration detention centres: 1,138 too many. One young man killed in our care is one too many.

Whatever else you think about the issue of asylum seekers, locking children up indefinitely is wrong. There is no moral framework that could justify putting children in detention, unless you think Machiavelli was an ethicist.... Read on >>>>

When I first saw this bowl I instantly thought of the bowl I used to see on my Nana's table. It's the same bowl, with the same ridges on the underside.

Except it can't be same bowl; if Nana's has survived it's in an op shop somewhere, this bowl is in the National Gallery of Victoria.

A glass bowl from 25 to 75 AD, Eastern Mediterranean

I felt the same awe today as the day I first saw it. It's part of the reason I came back. This bowl is from the time of Jesus, dated 25 to 75 AD, and from the eastern Mediterranean.

And it's just like Nana's. It could be Nana's.

Suddenly I saw Incarnation in a new way— in fact it was less about seeing and understanding and more about suddenly feeling and knowing. He was a man like me. Just like me.

I'm not talking some kind of naif piety here. I see deliberate, precision editing all over the gospel narratives. The authors adjust the petty details to ensure the stories will tell their understanding of the Jesus experience and its significance. It's clear they invented a few things to get the message across!

The stories have their own power; we don't need a course in theology to see the message. But scholarly insights open an enormous trove of extra insight for us.

Yet beyond the scholarship—past the redaction and the rhetoric—what I felt here was a connection to the utter humanity of this man we tell stories about. We are not telling stories about some idealised figure, some icon of humanity. These are stories like the stories I might tell about  Hurstie in college. This is us!

We can be part of the story of the Kingdom of Heaven. He double dipped into this same glass bowl of hommus with us. He is one of us. This is a story about a real person.  [Archived here]

In the beginning we are innocent. Our three year old helped his mum bury two still born kittens, and then disappeared, to return with the surviving kitten for its burial. It doesn't last: I once heard a five year old proclaim, "But I won't die!"

She had begun the long journey in which we deny death.... Read on >>>>

Originally titled Pitjantjatjara Funeral, this reflection speaks of the mystery around death, burial, and life.... Read on >>>>

Jesus said: He was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. "Well, I wish God's works hadn't taken so long to be revealed, said the blind man."  He had a way with blunt statements, and that one should warn us not to build theologies about how all things work to the good upon this story. Such theologies do violence to those who are already suffering.

George Stroup suggests that the "disciples do not know the distinction theologians sometimes draw between natural and moral evil, but they assume that this natural evil [of the man's blindness] must in some way be due to (and therefore explainable by) someone's sin…"; that is, moral evil.  (Feasting on the Word, Volume 2 pp120) They are convinced there must be someone to blame; they have not read their Job or Ecclesiastes.

The nature of sin is important to this story; it is where the story begins... Read on >>>>

It was a warm Sunday afternoon and the Pembroke School orchestra was playing at Union Hall with the world famous jazz trumpeter James Morrison. Just as they began a new bracket of music the school conductor said something a bit sharpish to one of the students. Some of them laughed, and we in the audience wondered what was going on.

James Morrison stepped up to the microphone with his trumpet and said, "He told the drummer to put his shoes back on." Then, very obviously, he kicked off his shoes, and played the next the bracket in his socks.

The audience was delighted. Australians are very happy to see unreasonable authority get taken down a peg or two. We are very determined for everyone to get a fair go. And a fair go doesn't include throwing your weight around unnecessarily, or having stupid rules....Read on >>>>

Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dark, and appears to leave 'still in the dark.' This woman comes in the blazing sun, the light. By the end of the story she has seen something. They come as isolated people. Nicodemus comes alone at night. She comes in the day (because then it is safe for an immoral woman?) No one else comes to the well in the heat of the day. By the end of the story she is connecting with her community again; in fact, she is building it, bringing people to Jesus! In the Greek Orthodox tradition she is named St. Photini, the enlightened one, and is recognised as the first evangelist.

Jesus’ longest-recorded conversation with anyone is the one he has with the Samaritan woman. (Fred Craddock) This story is important. ... Read on >>>>

NASA is conducting a serious study on whether "industrial civilisation is headed for 'irreversible collapse.'" Climate scientists are warning that positive feedback mechanisms are may make the effects of climate change far greater than we first thought. Conversations that include us in the likely species which will be extinct are no longer the province of crazy American survivalists.

The raw fear such issues generate in us has many parallels in a world which feels increasingly insecure. The anxiety felt by a fifty year old who works for Holden or Ford; the fear of a lifelong Qantas employee; school kids who see no prospect of a job while rich politicians "tighten" benefits; all these folk live with nagging fear about their future while the disasters of the wider world stream live into their smart phones.

Nothing stays the same. And unlike earlier decades, there is no pretending society is "on the way up." We are afraid. We are a society ripe for violence as fear, frustration, and resentment fester... Read on >>>>

I went to stay with my cousin Robbie. He had a small grey plastic submarine about two and a half inches long. It was hollow. You could jam a marble in the underside of the submarine, and it would sink down to the bottom of a clear pool of water at the end of one of the rows in their vineyard. Then, when you pulled the marble out, the submarine would rise to the surface.

I had never before wanted a submarine. But now I coveted that submarine. I still remember it fifty years later! I can't remember the house, or his parents, or anything else but the pool of water and the submarine. I can't even remember what Robbie looked like.

According to Rene Girard's mimetic theories, we desire things because other people desire them. Robbie was very proud of his submarine, and that pool of water. On reflection, it was not so much the submarine I wanted. The submarine was a sign pointing to Robbie, who was older than me. I didn't want the submarine; I wanted to be like Robbie, whom I adored. I wanted what Robbie had… being older, being self assured, being confident… everything I was not.

If I could imitate Robbie, life would be good. (And I would undoubtedly have submarines.) ... Read on >>>>

False prophets are two a penny. Just listen to the next ad on TV: Use my product and it will save you, or turn your life around, or.....

Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:15-20


In the drama of his gospel— think of Matthew as a movie— before Jesus actually begins his ministry, Matthew shows us that Jesus is not a false prophet. He shows us Jesus doing the hard yards. He shows him being tested and found trust worthy.

After the temptations, the movie goes on to show Jesus doing some of the very things that he refused to do during the temptations: He does multiply loaves of bread. And while he does not jump off the pinnacle of the temple, he does some very spectacular healing.

And so maybe it's not just what we do that counts, but when... and why... and how. What motivates us?What spirit drives us? How will we live?... Read on >>>>

"Look at those youngfellas over there on the rocks. They're sunning themselves like lizards."

"Well, we've destroyed their whole worldview; maybe there's nothing left to do except to sit on a rock and enjoy what life they can; it's pretty logical really."

"Yeah. It's not as though we have given them anything better to live by. I sometimes think they understand the emptiness and futility of our European culture better than we do."

This is a conversation of 35 years ago; one of those audio snippets which stay with us for life. Sometimes I think my friend and I should have sat down on the rocks ourselves... Read on >>>>

"In Jesus heaven and earth intersect." (Bill Loader)

Matthew's placement of this story says almost as much as the story itself. Immediately before, Jesus tells those who have just confessed he is Messiah of his coming death and resurrection. Immediately afterward, the disciples face an unassailable demon and Jesus, healing the boy, tells again of his death and resurrection.... Read on >>>>

I hope you are not a law abiding citizen....


Jesus did not say, "Abide in the law." He said, "Abide in me!" Don't live according to the law. Live according to me! (John 15:4) That means to live beyond and above the law of the land. It means to livemuch better than the law of the land.

The law of the land is for when things go wrong. "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for  a tooth" was a law to limit revenge when things went wrong. The law is the outer limit of our behaviour.... Read on >>>>

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