One Man's Web
"Only by knowing oneself, which is achieved by self-critical reflection and struggling against one's base and selfish desires, can a person know who or what one honestly and truly worships. A person might believe that he/she worships and has submitted to God, but through critical self-reflection and by engaging in persistent inner jihad such a person will come to realise that in reality he/she worships and has submitted to no one but himself/herself ... [T]he worst self-deception is for one to slip in the pitfall of self-idolatry while pretending, or while deceiving oneself into believing, that he/she has submitted to God. The ego (al-nafs), if not disciplined by critical introspection, can easily deceive human beings into believing that they worship God, while in truth their real god and genuine source of guidance are self-centered desires such as a sense of self-promotion, the love of material gain, the intoxications of power and dominance over others, or, in extreme cases, it is possible to become enslaved and submit oneself to the unadulterated epitome of evil and true source of ugliness and corruption on the earth, Satan himself."
This quotation from The Great Theft forms part of an interesting critique of the theological illiteracy of Richard Dawkins.... Read on >>>>
Far from being a suspicious or self-discrediting form of credulity, religious belief can be one of the most important ways resisting the nihilistic "cult of savviness" that predominates in journalism today. As counterintuitive as it may seem, I would even suggest that the more pressing question, pace Richard Dawkins, is not whether a religious believer can be a serious journalist, but whether it is possible to resist the suffocating cynicism and self-satisfied irony of modern journalism without some reference to the supernatural. Scott Stephens at the ABC Religion and Ethics website. Read on >>>>
The park at Nhill has nearly two acres of lawn, a playground, and a wetlands boardwalk. When the kids are aged three, five, and seven, it is a welcome stop for parents making the long drive to Adelaide.
When they arrived, Dad and the kids disappeared down the hill leaving Mum and Grandma to make lunch, or so I assumed.
Instead, Mum and Grandma said prayers. Dad returned the kids, washed, and was sitting by their car putting his shoes back on as I walked past. "G'day, mate," he said in the unmistakable accents of Australia.
He took his prayer mat over to the lawn, remaining serene as two of his children hurtled past mid prayer, one each side of him. Two grey nomads calmly stepped around him to read a tourist sign. A young Uyghur couple arrived and set up lunch at a nearby picnic table.
This is Australia on the road to Nhill.
The cars stop for little convoys of waterhen. They wait until the inevitable stragglers jump up to the footpath.
Most cars stop. Bloodied and crushed feathers lie in the middle of the street.
One little black chook stayed behind with her. It prodded her, and circled round her. Waited, puzzled. Then waddled off to the footpath. Broken, too.
Don't tell me a bird doesn't grieve. Ask why you need to tell me I am projecting. What humanity have you lost if you need to remind me I'm only imagining? Have you lost less than that driver who didn't care to stop?
Acts 9:36-43, John 10:22-30, Revelation 7:9-17
Their faces were triumphant and expectant.
At his feet he saw a caterpillar in its death throes, covered with tiny ants. He bent down. A very plain caterpillar; more of a grub, really, but each detail as fresh and deliberate as the minute perfection of a new born baby's fingers. He watched it writhe. "We are the chosen people of God, and yet, no more aware of our savagery than these ants."
He saw her feet, where they had her pinned against the wall, and crushed the caterpillar's head with his finger; aware that this small mercy crushed several equally innocent ants, and wearily stood up. "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."
My wonder at the world still grows... Read on >>>>
Not my turn for the overwhelming grief today; just the exhaustion, physical tiredness beyond anything reasonable for what I have been doing. Tiredness that leaves me feverish and ill. Trauma, says my doctor, disrupts all the physical systems of the body. He clearly has reservations about my trying to return to work, and talks for a while about trauma and the war veterans with whom he has worked. All that pain inflicted for a life time.... Read on >>>>
Our family was different. I was also a brainy kid, and very introverted. It all made me a natural target at school. For ten years, before I finally found a group in which I belonged, school was frequent misery; I was always a little on the edge. Fifty years later school memories still intrude into my life and, if I am not careful, affect my behaviour.
It's only in the last few years that I have realised I lived according to a weekly cycle. Each Sunday, we went to church; sometimes twice. And each week, the church put me back together. They welcomed me; they cared for me; they accepted me. I was nurtured and encouraged from the first morning playing in the Sunday School sand box two years before school began.
Church always was. I did not realise they were the body of Christ for me; they saved me... Read on >>>>
The lectionary is like a radio serial. Where do you choose to break the story until next week? As in the Luke reading of last week, the events of one day are split across two weeks in the reading from John 20:19-31. So, last week...
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb..... Read on >>>>
I am discussing a comment about the post Remembering Absent Presence. That post caused some discussion on one of the mailing groups to which I subscribe.
During the discussion, Greg said,
It seems to me that the normal two stages of exegesis are being confused. In regards to the resurrection, the first step would be to grasp the thought of those who wrote the documents of the New Testament. What do the documents show about their Christian beliefs? The second step is to ask what this can mean for us today.
This second step involves things with which it is hard to argue. If somebody says "I believe…", how could anyone else contest that claim? It is a subjective thing to which only the person making the claim has access. If you say "My favourite colour is blue", how could I possibly argue with you? ....
This is Greg's typical cogent thinking. He is correct about the way exegesis should proceed, although we should add to the two basic stages Greg outlines. There is a third stage. We are not always aware of this stage. This means we make unconscious exegetical decisions I will use the resurrection topic of my post and the mailing list discussion to illustrate this.... Read on >>>>
Each Easter I feel pressure to write a sermon which justifies my belief in that which I simply assume for the rest of the year. Indeed, I not only assume resurrection of Jesus, I experience it. So why this pressure that I know I am not alone in feeling?
It is true I'm doing philosophy before the text here. But the movement between text and philosophy is circular. How we think about the text from before will affect how we approach it. Some folk seem to think they don't bring opinions to the text, but we all do. I want to be clear about my assumptions before I begin seeking to express the almost inexpressible.... Read on >>>
This was a response to one of my lectionary commentaries.
I read right through this one. Two questions lingered. What does it mean for us today, to take up our cross? What is the significance of the suffering of Jerusalem in its destruction? Overall, how do we translate these historic events into something meaningful for us in our time and situation?
Here is my reply:
This is the question! How do we find something meaningful for our own time?... Read on >>>>
There are four differing accounts of Jesus arrest and death. Each has its own emphasis. Since it is the Year of Luke, I have decided to leave the John reading set in the Lectionary and read Luke for Good Friday. What was Luke saying? As always, I found I have a composite gospel in my mind; whole sections of it do not exist in Luke. And Luke has his own details I have never really noticed.
I began reading at Jesus arrival in the garden, in Luke 22:39.
Why does Luke have Rome insist that Jesus was innocent? His innocence is affirmed five times, (23:4,15, 23, 41, 47) and four times this is placed on the lips of Roman officials. In addition, we are told that Herod, the Roman puppet King, (23:15) found Jesus had done no wrong!
This is not an attempt by Luke to appease the Romans in his audience. Pilate is presented as weak and vacillating. Even one of his own Roman soldiers says Jesus was innocent. There is no appeasement here; if anything, Pilate is ridiculed by the story.... Read on >>>>
As a kid I thought of Palm Sunday as Jesus' version of John Martin's Christmas Pageant, and imagined the whole city lined up to watch. This would then be contrasted by the minister, or Sunday School teachers, with the condemnation of Jesus by the very same crowd a few days later—Crucify him!—and made great theatre.
Jerusalem was always in a touchy mood at Passover, with a heavy military presence, so it is unlikely that Jesus could have survived anything remotely like that kind of parade. Both the parade and the cleansing of the temple had to be quick guerrilla actions for him to avoid arrest.
It is not possible to work out what actually happened on the day. We only have Luke's telling of the story. It is different from the other Gospels. No palms or branches of any kind. What does he want us to see in his story?... Read on >>>>
John is no 99 cent eBook; a 'penny dreadful' to be read once and discarded. John means us to read in circular fashion, building up a seamless world, an eternity where time and sequence lose the power they have in our current lives.
To make sure we understand this he does things that are a penny dreadful sin. Into his own drama he inserts a spoiler; not a hint, but a blatant spoiler jumping up and down and waving at us.... Read on >>>>>
To have faith in a religion, any religion, is to accept at some primary level that its particular language of words and symbols says something true about reality. This doesn't mean that the words and symbols are reality (that's fundamentalism), nor that you will ever master those words and symbols well enough to regard reality as some fixed thing. What it does mean, though, is that you can 'no more be religious in general than [you] can speak language in general' (George Lindbeck), and that the only way to deepen your knowledge and experience of ultimate divinity is to deepen your knowledge and experience of the all-too-temporal symbols and language of a particular religion. Lindbeck would go so far as to say that your religion of origin has such a bone-deep hold on you that, as with a native language, it's your only hope for true religious fluency. I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that one has to submit to symbols and language that may be inadequate in order to have those inadequacies transcended. ... Christian Wiman Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet See more at Richard Beck's Experimental Theology