One Man's Web

I laughed when my minister asked how we would manage our relationship with our parents once we were married. "Mate! Not an issue. We live 1200km away." I soon found our parents were living right there with us. It took a while longer, but I discovered some of my grandparents' issues pushing their way into our relationship. When we arrived at the first congregation I served, my wife was held responsible for the faults, real or imagined, of previous clergy wives. Society loads us with its hopes, fears, and assumptions, when we marry.... Read on >>>>

The location has changed, but the context has stayed the same: the context is the children.

The children are at the centre of the central teaching in Mark based around the three predictions of Jesus' death. "These are the three signal teachings about the Messiah in the centre of Mark": they teach us what it means to be Messiah, and what it means to follow the Messiah and, therefore, what it means to be church. In Mark 8:22-26 and Mark 10:46-52 there are two healings from blindness. They are like the wrapping around the gift of seeing the kingdom clearly and what it means for our lives, and what it means to be church. The children are at the centre of this gift. The children are like a touchstone. They are the ones who show us whether we "see clearly," or whether we are still blind. (Mark 8:25)  ... Read on >>>>

The podcast of this post is here

Violence is the insistence on being first at the expense of others. Violence is the antithesis of what Mark calls being "great," (Mark 10:43) because it refuses to serve, and therefore, refuses God. We are in a conversation which began last week, and which the lectionary cut short.

How did we get here?
John writes that "there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25) Why then, in such a short Gospel as Mark's, are this week's violent foot chopping and eye plucking sayings included? Are they the heart of the Good News of God's Kingdom where "they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain?" (Isa 11:9)

You only put this material into a gospel if little ones are being caused to stumble. The "shocking hyperbole" is a sign that Mark knows of shocking failures of hospitality and love among those who bear the name of Christ.... Read on >>>>

In the news the desperate situation of refugees seems to worsen. Pacific Islands face destruction while our politicians joke and refuse to address the issue of climate change in meaningful ways. How are we to work together with people of good will for some kind of justice? How do we sort through the competing ideologies we bring to the situation? What gifts might we Christians bring to the situation? And how is it that some who bear the nameChristian have such vastly different responses to issues like these?... Read on >>>>

Last week the Gospel of Mark began to educate us about who the Messiah really is, and what it means to follow him. In that reading Jesus said that "those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8:35)

This week Jesus repeats that message: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35) And in chapter 10, a few weeks from now, we will hear another variation of this teaching about greatness.

These are the three signal teachings about the Messiah in the centre of Mark... Read on >>>>

From the text:

I saw one like a human being (the Aramaic says like a son of man)
   coming with the clouds of heaven...
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
   that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
   that shall never be destroyed.

How can such a one die, let alone be killed by the elders of the people?  (Mark 8:31) Indeed, how is it that his power is not Imperial?

The heightened paradox, and the brutal dismissal of Peter's refusal to embrace it, make it clear that if we do not see what is going on here, if our eyes are not opened, then we are missing a critical understanding of Jesus. "Get behind me, Satan," is bad enough. But this refusal of Peter to see is identified by Jesus as "setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." It is defined as a completely wrong vision of life and its meaning. Jesus is not an imperial conqueror... Read on >>>>

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.


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 >>>>

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