One Man's Web

... Here is a third unpleasant fact. This is not a problem of distribution. It's not that we can't get the food from Australia to Africa. We can get food to the International Space Station. This is all a matter of will. We nations, and we people, who are rich and powerful do not care enough about the lives of other people to give them the food, or to allow the development of their own adequate agricultural and social structures... The old language would say we are trapped in our human sinfulness... Read on >>>>

Five thousand people fed? We need to get this story right, because otherwise we are promoting a God who is an arbitrary monster, or we are talking plain stupidity. The world would be right to say, in utter disgust, "Go home— you're drunk! What sort of God can do this feeding miracle, but then leaves the world suffering lack of food for millennia?" (Which is not to mention all the other things such a God could fix!)... Read on >>>>

The story after Herod's Feast is almost total contrast.

Jesus' feast is in a deserted place, not a palace. It is given for the great crowd of us, not the elite.  It is given for all Israel—the numbers five and twelve are everywhere. (It will be retold with Gentile numbers in Chapter 8.)

The lectionary does a violence to the text at this point. It tells us the beginnings of the feast but removing the heart of the story of Jesus' feast (and his walking on the water) by jumping to the summary verses of healings at the end. It is rather like giving us the story of his healing Jairus' daughter but leaving out the story of the bleeding woman.  Essentially, the lectionary gives us a Markan sandwich without the meat; it's a shell of a story, a pie crust with no pie... Read on >>>>

'll begin this sermon by taking the Communion Bread from the table....

What do I have on this plate?

 We say it's the body of Christ. And we know that during Communi it will be broken. It will be torn into peices.

At the high point of the feast we hold up the bread and wine. And when we talk about it, we say it symbolises what Jesus did. He gave himself.

In Herod's feast, Johns head is lifted up on a platter. ... Read on >>>>

Your life is not your own. This is the great scandal of Christianity and other religions. They say to us that we are subject to forces greater than ourselves. These are often forces over which we have no control.

John's murder shows us the same desire/mob/scapegoat mechanisms by which the crucifixion will happen. But whereas the crucifixion is followed by the proclamation of resurrection and the invitation to trust/faith, (Mark 15:6-7) John's story shows what happens when there is no trust in the way of Jesus, but a refusal to trust.

It is a story for our times. It shows us the truth that our life is not our own... Read on >>>>

there is no beach
the water is heaped dead against the land
it should flood into this depression but gravity itself is drained
even the light is dead.

the light  shines in the darkness
wrote john
and the darkness did not overcome it
but in this place darkness has stripped the colour from it

miserable winter swamp where the sun  will not go down
a sheol
neither  dead nor alive
drawn in bilge and sludge
uncaring smudged sketches of life
which  contain   miseries of  unexpected detail

silent silent forest
no birds
the sound sucked out of it
branches rotting as they fall
the substance is gone from everything
it drips

hevel
yet you beset me behind and before
to whom else can i go

Andrew Prior [Archived here]

The chocolates at the checkout are surrounded by gossip magazines. I've seen our local supermarket almost run out of milk, but I can't recall empty spaces in the magazine racks.

Look at the gossip magazines. They idolise and they hate. They invite readers into in a vicious cycle which goes nowhere. They encourage prurient, bitter envy— even hatred,  which nonetheless copies the hairstyles and the clothes. They invite us to be trapped in a cycle of pettiness, a diminished life which allegedly finds some meaning in "being famous for being famous." And there's even magazines for we also-rans: "My mother stole my boyfriend," screams the headline for some poor kid in suburbia whom the magazine invites us to despise for her neediness, and yet envy for her front cover.... Read on >>>>

He snorted as the boy quoted some dictum from the Presbyterian minister in town.

"You're a heretic, Dad."

The man wondered what grace he would be shown when he was old.
He walked with half an eye to the sun. Why do we bother to hunt pigs?— there'll always be more.
"The minister's sitting in his own silo,"he grunted. "Counted up every last grain of wheat, he has, but never stood up to look outside. It doesn't matter how good his counting is—  he doesn't know what he's got. He doesn't know what he's looking at."

"Don't you worry for your eternal soul?"

Bathurst Burr this far into a state forest!? What have we done to the place? 
"Son, the good Lord gave that minister the same brains as the rest of us, yet he says your mum's not fit to be and elder. Every last one of 'em in that church knows she's holier than he'll ever be, but they take direction from a dope who'd get lost in a fallow paddock."

"Dad, the Bible says— " The words choked off as his father slammed the bolt open and sent the cartridge spinning into the bush.

"Sit down."
He shoved the magazine into his pocket.
"Look at this place. Forest, pigs and roos. Apostle birds tipping off the pigs. Bloody cathead—  even here!
He kicked at it with his boot.

"You can't stitch this all up in a book. You can't make God tidy like a Sydney suburb.

"I got lost out here once— when I was a kid your age. I didn't have the sense to read the sun. You can die out here, and I nearly did.

"I met Him, you know— God. There's power past what that fool in town ever dreamed of.

"You know how I got out? Light. I walked towards the light at the edge of the forest—  'cept I was miles in from the old highway by then. Shouldn't have been able to see it. He's... wild, son. Not this weak vengeance is mine stuff—  He's wild. It's dark in this forest, and it's His dark.

"You want my advice? You listen when he says to do what Jesus did, but you make sure you read it for yourself. And look at your mother, and pay no attention to what he says about women, or you'll have a miserable wife for your whole life.

"And remember this forest. Every time he acts like that book's got God stitched up in a box, you remember this forest.

"Come on. Pigs can wait."
He glanced at the sun and stumped off.

Andrew Prior Jun 2015 Archived here

Meet Fred. Fred has done well. He has worked hard on his business. He’s honest. He’s well respected. He’s not one of those rich people who suck the rest of us dry. Fred is a good man, and he gives back to the community.

Fred also has a conscience. He’s always understood that a fair bit of his success in business was plain luck... Read on >>>>

The old priest stands at the lights
hands thrust into his night black coat
against the cold
then crosses the highway.
No grassy park this
but an untamed place
feral olives
and a wild creek
down from the hills.
Each evening he walks
where the welcome relief from the suburbs
turns into unreasonable darkness 
    two scandal seeking teens
    fled to the safety of the school security lights
while he clambered through the gorge
to the bare hills and the wind.
Nightly.
And would return pale
sometimes
sleeping exhausted into the morning.
And broke the untidy loaves
with clean hands
and a calm heart.

Andrew Prior [Archived here]

Jesus has already 'been to the lake' in Mark 3:7 but now gives some extended teaching at its edges. He teaches the crowd from the shallows— always in parables that hint at greater depths, and then takes the disciples out over the deep. Not surprisingly, the deeps strike back. The boat is already being swamped by the time they can wake him.

Jesus stills the storm. This is an act of power over the deep. Jesus is the one in control. When he arrives in strange territory— the place where one's God might be expected to have less power—  the forces of the deep counter attack. ... Read on >>>>

As I seek to discern my calling in a possible change of employment... 
and reflecting further upon this week's lectionary readings...

Our world is falling apart. As Christians this ought not surprise us. We are a tradition which understands that the world is far from perfect, and which hopes for God's completion of all things.  Depending on our "theological dialect," this may be an apocalyptic vision of destruction and the re-establishment of a new earth, or it may be a vision of slow completion where the  desires of God are brought to fulfilment, even with us as co-creators. But however we see this hope being worked out, we are clear the current world in which we live is not the final reality. It is not "Kingdom of God."

Any age lives with its own fears about the future.  We live with the reality of nuclear weaponry which could wipe us out in a few hours, and know we have come perilously close to such a war. We have read Rachel Carson— we know it is unsafe to drink from the rivers— and we live post-thalidomide... Read on >>>>

My father taught me to fence when we replaced a portion of the bottom boundary. Two enormous strainer posts defined the new fence; one against Heaslip's boundary and the other still serving as a bottom gate to the farm after fifty years. He strung a single high tension wire between them— 500 yards or more, and I walked with Grandpop's old surveyor's chain, and directly under the wire, marked off a post every 22 yards. Then he loosened the top wire and we began to auger in the post-holes.

Kingdom is different.... Read on >>>>

I've recently taken a couple of day trips up into the Barossa and back through the Hills. Read on >>>>
This reading is a Markan sandwich. It begins with Jesus family coming to "restrain" him, but the story is interrupted by the "scribes who came down from Jerusalem," and must wait for Jesus to deal with them before it comes to its conclusion. The sandwich structure is important. We can take a lesson from the words on family, and we can take a lesson from the words about Beelzebul, but Mark's intent is to be found in the relationship of the two.... Read on >>>>

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