One Man's Web

What would Jesus do?   Written for Pilgrim Church Adelaide  (You can listen here)
This is a serious question. In all the variety of Christian expression some folk may imagine a Jesus whom we struggle to recognise as Jesus at all. But he is the distinguishing mark of Christianity compared to other religious faiths.  And to ask seriously and honestly, "What would Jesus do if he were here, in my shoes?" can be a life changing experience. Sometimes we discover he simply would not wear our shoes!... Read on >>>>

There is always stuff under the table. There is always more driving us than we realise. We are never as free as we think. We think we have a handle on what God is saying to us and then discover the painstakingly swept floor of our dining room is littered with ungodliness. We sweep out the mess of our minds and, like the floor of our house, crumbs, dirt and unidentifiable stuff is soon visible again.

It happened to Jesus... Read on >>>>

We all 'do church' "according to the traditions of the elders."  Church is a language that we speak"A religion is like a language that one must have begun to learn before being able to grasp what is being said in it." (Andrew Dutney.)  Language "lets us in" to experience.

We can't not do church "according to the traditions of the elders." Not only would it be like making up our own Esperanto as we went along, but even a constructed language like Esperanto has roots in other languages; it has necessarily constructed a tradition from other traditions.

The traditions of the elders are the pathways and signposts which allow us to hear and interpret the experience of the God of Israel, and which allow us to speak about those experiences with each other today. In this sense, the traditions of the elders enable us to understand or interpret an experience as holy or sacred.... Read on >>>>

Where does John leave us at the end of Chapter 6? I'm still chewing. So I've called this post Gristle. It is scarcely an exegesis of the text at all... or perhaps it is.

Gristle...

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ (John 6:68 -69)

These words always seem full of pathos. In my mind,  Peter speaks with a kind of fatalism, "To whom else can we go?" Read on >>>>  Or you can listen here.

I don't think I can understand just how offensive Jesus' words are. Seven times it says we are to eat him. And four of those occasions also refer to the drinking of his blood. Our life depends on it...

Eating flesh was forbidden.  It was associated with vultures (Ez 39:17) and evildoers (Zech 11:9).  Drinking blood was equally offensive.  "You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood," said Genesis (9:4).  "You shall not eat...any blood," said Leviticus (3:17).  "You shall not eat flesh and drink blood," said Ezekial (39:17)  Read on >>>>

There is so much in John chapter six that the lectionary divides it up into 5 sections. It is always a challenge to those of us who preach the lectionary. And this year, I simply don't care.

I've returned home after 11 days away helping my Mum in the transition to aged care. Days of grief and fear, laughing so we wouldn't cry, and then crying anyway. My two sisters and wonderful wife and children took days off work, commuted down from the city, flew across the world and like me, sat up all hours working remotely over Mum's agonisingly slow internet connection. This week it continues up to the day of the shift, and then we face the sale of the house... Read on >>>>

You can listen to this post here, or the "dry run" for this week's sermon, here.

... 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 >>>>

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