One Man's Web
My Friend D:
Do you remember those times in Youth Group, Andrew? How committed we all were? And have you noticed we have no beach house, no boat, no investment accounts, you and I? And how all those Youth Group friends seem to have them?
John is definitively put in his place by this reading. 11"Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." All of the Gospels take such care to emphasis John's subordination to Jesus that it is clear there were folk who thought John was The One. The Mandaic Book of John, for example, is very clear about this! Jesus is called the deceiver; John is the one to listen to.
Matthew is clear. John is the Elijah who was expected to return before the Messiah, but he is not the Messiah... Read on >>>>
An Advent Faith: life is not an accident, and is in some fundamental way "meant" to be good.
Christianity is a discipline— one discipline— for exploring that good, and even enabling and enhancing it.
We take the old stories of Israel and of Jesus of Nazareth which we have inherited, and retell them as we live in the pain and joy of life.
We hear them as we look on the splendour of nature, the marvel of the genetic code and its expression, the almost overwhelming weight of evil, the fear that there is no enduring meaning to be had, and the reality of love.
Slowly we discover, and rediscover, and build our own vision out of the richness of our heritage; a vision which is forged in human pain and toughened with the mettle of human hope. We live for that vision and tell the stories again.
Our faith is that this conscious discipline of mining our unconscious and testing it against our knowledge of the world, whilst also letting it shine light on the world, brings us toward the Meaning behind it all. And if there is no Meaning... if we have made it all ourselves, then we have done well. We have stretched ourselves and deepened our humanity beyond what we once were.
The stories call us away from the old reality of brute force and survival of the fittest. We glimpse a "new fitness" for being human. Power is not domination to survive and rule. Power is giving, enabling, sacrificing, and building up the weak.
This half glimpsed contradiction and heresy turns life on its head. It threatens everything we have and all that we are... and yet graces us with moments of fulfilment, contentment, and sheer nobility beyond anything we have yet seen.
Andrew Prior Advent 2 2013
The people around him saw Jesus' life as a sign that God was acting for good, and that God loved the world dearly. But...
John the Baptist thought that this God of love would burn people. The axe was at the root of the trees. The one coming after him would burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. At the end of Matthew's Gospel Matthew has Jesus telling a story where he says 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” (Matthew 25:41-43)
I cannot make these words sit together with the idea of a God who is love. I'm not the only Christian who says Matthew's vision of God at this point is short-sighted. Like all of us, Matthew has met God, but does not have the whole truth. He did not see the full implications of his conviction that God burns those who do not bear fruit.
So hear me: You will not be burned for all eternity. Even though there are churches who wish to consign you to hell, you will not burn... Read on >>>>
At last night's wedding reception the groom expressed deep emotions for his bride. It was the sort of language we don't much hear much from older Australian men. The MC had not long before expressed his own deep affection for the groom, including the comfort of having that accomplished sniper shooting over his head during a siege. The room of forty or so cops, christians, and sometimes hard drinkers appreciated all these sentiments.
I've known this bunch for twenty or so years; a mix of gentle, committed, passionate, hard-arsed and pragmatic people— mostly cops. We're of that age that's beaten around the edges, scarred and yet surprisingly gentle and optimistic about the nature of life; a paradoxical mix of love, aspirations, and failings.
My meetings with this crowd remind me how contextual our lives are, and how easy it is to miss the genuine presence of Spirit moving in a culture which is familiar and yet quite alien.... Read on >>>>
I read On The Beach as a teenager, and still remember the chilling pessimism of Neville Shute's novel as his characters wait to die from radiation poisoning. There are hundreds of books and novels with an apocalyptic theme. It seems like these stories are a way of thinking about our deep fears about the end of the world.
Some of them are stories where the world ends... Read on >>>>
People thought Jesus would return very soon. Acts 2 records the selling of possessions; people were expecting him in days, weeks at the most. In one Thessalonians 4 starting at verse 13, Paul is reassuring people. It is clear that people have died before Jesus has come and this has been a struggle to understand. He concludes in verse 17, "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord together. Therefore encourage one another with these words."
By the time of 2 Peter the delay in the Lord's coming has extra bite. Chapter Three says," First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging in their own lusts and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were the beginning of the creation!" (3:3)... Read on >>>>
Two blokes are walking along a country road and they slowly catch up with a third bloke. All three walk along together, as you do. The third chap tries to talk about the weather, he makes a comment or two about the crops, and finally he says, "You guys must be the most miserable blokes this side of Jerusalem. What's up? Has somebody died?"... Read on >>>>
Clay Farris Naff says
Monotheism in the West has undergone two major adaptive changes in the past 2,500 years. A third great leap is nigh. Can it succeed? Whether you are religious or not, you'd better hope so.
Like life itself, religion has repeatedly met the challenge of extinction with a phase change -- a sudden transformation so dramatic that it is hard to relate the before and after pics.
He does not understand just what the phase change is; he thinks it is about putting the Messiah in heaven rather than on earth, but he understands the idea of change!
He also understands that it is people who are changed, not God. ... Read on >>>>
What is it that means that some of us suffer the warfare of life, undergoing appalling deprivation perhaps, having everything stacked against us, and yet flourish, inspire, heal others, and are triumphant? Are these people just good actors who pretend to have found joy?
And why are others— even some who seem to have everything— bitter, churlish, and defeated? Do we have any control over how and who we will be, and the destiny we have been handed, or is the best we can do endure until the release of death... Read on >>>>
I was heading for a main road and bus stop by dead reckoning, when I found the streets blocked by a cemetery. A monument, taller and more grand than all the others, dominated the middle. The last resting place of a knight of the realm, and member of one of the founding families, proclaimed his great achievements and good deeds. This dusk discovery deeply impressed me; years before, in one of those odd juxtapositions of the ordinary masses and the rich and powerful, I had lived next door to him.
The monument was being broken down by the roots of weeds. Parts of the statuary had already fallen.... Read on >>>>
A missionary meets a cannibal, and it does not go well. He is eaten. But the cannibal is so impressed by the demeanour of the missionary as he awaits death, that he is converted. So how will these two be raised from the dead? Part of the missionary would have to be part of the cannibal! This was the gist of an atheist pamphlet which triumphantly concluded it had so ridiculed the notion of resurrection, and its logical knots and impossibilities, that I could not possibly continue to believe.
A similar argument is being used by the Pharisees against Jesus in the Luke reading for this week. They are confident they have exposed the notion of resurrection for the stupidity which it is... Read on >>>>
The driver of the 224 bus honked at the kid loitering across the street from the shopping centre. The boy stopped and gave him the finger, so the driver gunned the bus, which roared forward causing the kid to race for the pavement. He turned around and grinned and waved at the laughing driver.
This is Elizabeth, where the shopping trolleys roam kilometres from their supermarket as a communal resource... Read on >>>
The irony of this story is the name of the chief protagonist: Zacchaeus means "pure or holy one." Most folk would have thought the chief tax collector was chief among sinners. He may even have been a regular at synagogue, but his undoubted cheating and rorting the system, like all tax collectors, put him among the worst of sinners— not to mention his collaboration with the Romans.
I don't remember the hospital visit which left the scar under my left eye. I was too young. I remember, at three, adult conversations about "best to have an anaesthetic." I remember being pinned down screaming under bright lights, and trying to avoid the white rag placed over my face.
I've always had vague memories of my mother's kindness as she explained about the hospital; I could feel the love. It took longer to remember my feelings of utter rage at my betrayal by my parents, and at my abandonment in that place.
Three years later I steadfastly refused to wake up when Dr. Joe and the anaesthetist came to visit the afternoon before my tonsils were to be removed... Read on >>>>
My First Impressions about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in the Temple were expressed in the heartfelt theistic language of my religious tradition. The basic premise is of theism is that 'God' is a person we can talk to and to whom we may relate. Words such as 'righteousness 'and 'justification' make it clear there is a right relationship to be had with this God. There are, of course, a thousand and one volumes exploring the nuances of the metaphor of a theistic God, and assessing its limitations. It is not simplistic.
Within this model Jesus, and Paul, and the early church discovered the liberating experience that God did not need to be satisfied or propitiated by us. God simply loves us... Read on >>>>